[ op-uh-reyt ]
See synonyms for: operateoperatedoperatesoperating on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object),op·er·at·ed, op·er·at·ing.
  1. to work, perform, or function, as a machine does: This engine does not operate properly.

  2. to work or use a machine, apparatus, or the like.

  1. to act effectively; produce an effect; exert force or influence (often followed by on or upon): Their propaganda is beginning to operate on the minds of the people.

  2. to perform some process of work or treatment.

  3. Surgery. to perform a surgical procedure.

  4. (of a drug) to produce the effect intended.

  5. Military.

    • to carry on operations in war.

    • to give orders and accomplish military acts, as distinguished from doing staff work.

  6. to carry on transactions in securities, or some commodity, especially speculatively or on a large scale.

  7. Informal. to use devious means for one's own gain; insinuate oneself; finagle: a man who knows how to operate with the ladies.

verb (used with object),op·er·at·ed, op·er·at·ing.
  1. to manage or use (a machine, device, etc.): Do you know how to operate a forklift?

  2. to put or keep (a factory, industrial system, ranch, etc.) working or in operation: to operate a coal mine.

  1. to bring about, effect, or produce, as by action or the exertion of force or influence.

Origin of operate

First recorded in 1600–10; from Late Latin operātus, past participle of operārī, -āre “to work, be efficacious, effect, produce,” Latin: “to busy oneself,” verbal derivative of opera effort, work, akin to opus “work”; see -ate1

Other words from operate

  • op·er·at·a·ble, adjective
  • pre·op·er·ate, verb (used without object), pre·op·er·at·ed, pre·op·er·at·ing.
  • re·op·er·ate, verb (used with object), re·op·er·at·ed, re·op·er·at·ing.
  • un·op·er·at·a·ble, adjective
  • un·op·er·at·ed, adjective
  • well-op·er·at·ed, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use operate in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for operate


/ (ˈɒpəˌreɪt) /

  1. to function or cause to function

  2. (tr) to control the functioning of: operate a machine

  1. to manage, direct, run, or pursue (a business, system, etc)

  2. (intr) to perform a surgical operation (upon a person or animal)

  3. (intr) to produce a desired or intended effect

  4. (tr usually foll by on) to treat or process in a particular or specific way

  5. (intr) to conduct military or naval operations

  6. (intr) to deal in securities on a stock exchange

Origin of operate

C17: from Latin operāri to work

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012