Definition of operate in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈäpəˌrāt/


1 [with object] (Of a person) control the functioning of (a machine, process, or system): a shortage of workers to operate new machines
More example sentences
  • A person operating our control system could take it in stride.
  • He also believes that the people operating machines or carrying out processes are usually those who know best how to get the optimum performance from them.
  • It was a big room with huge glasses, through which I could see three persons operating the monitoring system and watching the dashboard.
work, run, make go, use, utilize, handle, control, manage;
drive, steer, maneuver
1.1 [no object] (Of a machine, process, or system) function in a specified manner: market forces were allowed to operate freely
More example sentences
  • If the dissolution process has operated efficiently through time, then extensive caves will be found in a limestone massif.
  • To make sure your system operates efficiently, examine it frequently, checking for leaks, clogs, or misdirected sprinklers or drip-emitters.
  • While this system operates efficiently when only a single pair of achiasmate chromosomes is present, multiple pairs of large chromosomes cannot be distinguished.
function, work, go, run, be in working/running order, be operative
take effect, act, apply, be applied, function
1.2 [no object] Be in effect: there is a powerful law that operates in politics
More example sentences
  • In his book Pity the Nation, British journalist Robert Fisk explains in some detail the way the land laws operated and to what effect.
  • My answer is that certainly it is necessary that such laws operate in order for effects brought about directly by the agent to have ulterior consequences.
  • The law of cause and effect operates only in the realm of nature (the empirical realm).
1.3(Of a person or organization) manage and run (a business): many foreign companies operate factories in the U.S.
More example sentences
  • At that time, Pegasus stated its commitment to working with current management and operating the bicycle business as a going concern.
  • At least that's how managers try to operate such businesses.
  • IT manages the information that's needed to operate a business.
direct, control, manage, run, govern, administer, superintend, head (up), supervise, oversee, preside over, be in control/charge of
1.4 [no object] (Of an organization) be managed and run in a specified way: neither company had operated within the terms of its charter
More example sentences
  • However, there are strong divisions between these groups, even within organizations operating together.
  • HR flow policies can be strongly influenced by the national cultural assumptions within which the organization operates.
  • In reality it is unusual to see this method, primarily due to the complexity involved in calculation and the unstable environment within which most organizations operate.
1.5 [no object] (Of an armed force) conduct military activities in a specified area or from a specified base: the mountain bases from which the guerrillas were operating
More example sentences
  • Modern technology and design assist in urban control while complicating the terrain in which a military force might operate.
  • They also don't have the easy target that Cornwallis gave them at Yorktown, though there is a small British force operating in the area.
  • My job was to document the war efforts of U.S. military forces operating out of Thailand.
2 [no object] Perform a surgical operation: the surgeons refused to operate my brother had to be operated on last week
More example sentences
  • Concerns about the standard of care were further highlighted by the fact that the surgeon who eventually operated on the man was given the wrong endoscope, which in any case wasn't working.
  • My experience of the NHS, from the superb and knighted surgeon who operated on me to the Indian tea lady with her endless cups, was one of kindness, courtesy and concern.
  • The surgeons who operated on him thought he might never walk again.
perform surgery, do an operation
informal put under the knife


Early 17th century: from Latin operat- 'done by labor', from the verb operari, from opus, oper- 'work'.

Words that rhyme with operate


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: op·er·ate

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