[op-er-uh-tiv, op-ruh-tiv, op-uh-rey-tiv]



Origin of operative

1590–1600; < Middle French operatif < Latin operāt(us) (see operate) + Middle French -if -ive
Related formsop·er·a·tive·ly, adverbop·er·a·tive·ness, op·er·a·tiv·i·ty [op-er-uh-tiv-i-tee] /ˌɒp ər əˈtɪv ɪ ti/, nounin·ter·op·er·a·tive, noun, adjectivenon·op·er·a·tive, adjectiveun·op·er·a·tive, adjective

Synonyms for operative

1. workman, factory hand. 2. investigator, agent. 6. effectual, serviceable.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for operative

Contemporary Examples of operative

Historical Examples of operative

  • When the operative had withdrawn, the detective turned to Ramon.

    The Crevice

    William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander

  • Blaine demanded, curtly, when the operative paused at length.

    The Crevice

    William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander

  • Her father, an operative gardener, removed in 1842 to Torwoodlee, Roxburghshire.

  • He then went to Karazin as signalman and operative in the railway works.

    Maxim Gorki

    Hans Ostwald

  • The Spirit of God was operative so far as the unbelief of men permitted.

    Jesus the Christ

    James Edward Talmage

British Dictionary definitions for operative



in force, effect, or operation
exerting force or influence
producing a desired effect; significantthe operative word
of or relating to a surgical procedure


a worker, esp one with a special skill
US a private detective
Derived Formsoperatively, adverboperativeness or operativity, noun
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 operative

"producing the intended effect," early 15c., from Old French operatif (14c.) or directly from Late Latin operativus "creative, formative," from operat-, past participle stem of operari (see operation). Weakened sense of "significant, important" is from 1955.


"worker, operator," 1809, from operative (adj.); sense of "secret agent, spy" is first attested 1930, probably from its use by the Pinkerton Detective Agency as a title for their private detectives (1905).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

operative in Medicine


[ŏpər-ə-tĭv, -ə-rā′tĭv, ŏprə-]


Of, relating to, or resulting from a surgical operation.
Functioning effectively; efficient.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.