• synonyms


See more synonyms for operating on Thesaurus.com
  1. used or engaged in performing operations: an operating surgeon.
  2. of, for, or pertaining to operations: an operating budget.
  3. of or relating to the proper operation of a machine, appliance, etc.: a manual of operating instructions.
  4. Railroads. of, pertaining, or belonging to railroad workers, as engineers or firemen, who are directly engaged in the mechanical operation of trains: an operating union.
Show More

Origin of operating

First recorded in 1800–10; operate + -ing1
Related formsnon·op·er·at·ing, adjectiveun·op·er·at·ing, adjective


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.
  3. 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.
  4. to perform some process of work or treatment.
  5. Surgery. to perform a surgical procedure.
  6. (of a drug) to produce the effect intended.
  7. Military.
    1. to carry on operations in war.
    2. to give orders and accomplish military acts, as distinguished from doing staff work.
  8. to carry on transactions in securities, or some commodity, especially speculatively or on a large scale.
  9. Informal. to use devious means for one's own gain; insinuate oneself; finagle: a man who knows how to operate with the ladies.
Show More
verb (used with object), op·er·at·ed, op·er·at·ing.
  1. to manage or use (a machine, device, etc.): to operate a switchboard.
  2. to put or keep (a factory, industrial system, ranch, etc.) working or in operation: to operate a coal mine.
  3. to bring about, effect, or produce, as by action or the exertion of force or influence.
Show More

Origin of operate

1600–10; < 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
Related formsop·er·at·a·ble, adjectivepre·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, adjectiveun·op·er·at·ed, adjectivewell-op·er·at·ed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for operating

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • All the time I was sitting waiting, I kept thinking that it was you who were operating!


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • You were operating, with everybody standing by, saying how wonderful it was.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • But that first case died because a sponge had been left in the operating field.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • In the movement to and from the operating room, the door stood open for a moment.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • It was an operating table—and he was to be the subject of their operation!

British Dictionary definitions for operating


  1. to function or cause to function
  2. (tr) to control the functioning ofoperate a machine
  3. to manage, direct, run, or pursue (a business, system, etc)
  4. (intr) to perform a surgical operation (upon a person or animal)
  5. (intr) to produce a desired or intended effect
  6. (tr usually foll by on) to treat or process in a particular or specific way
  7. (intr) to conduct military or naval operations
  8. (intr) to deal in securities on a stock exchange
Show More

Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for operating



c.1600, "to be in effect," back-formation from operation, or else from Latin operatus, past participle of operari "to work, labor, toil, take pains" (in Late Latin "to have effect, be active, cause"). Surgical sense is first attested 1799. Meaning "to work machinery" is from 1864 in American English. Related: Operated; operating. Operating system in the computer sense is from 1961.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

operating in Medicine


  1. To perform surgery.
Show More
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.