Definition of operate in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɒpəreɪt/


1 [with object] (Of a person) control the functioning of (a machine, process, or system): the Prime Minister operates a system of divide and rule
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, make go, run, set off, use, utilize, employ, handle, control, wield, ply, manage, be in charge of;
drive, steer, guide, pilot, manipulate, manoeuvre, exercise
1.1 [no object, with adverbial] (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, perform, act, be in action, behave, be in working/running order, be operative
take effect, act, be in effect, be in force, be in operation, stand, apply, be applied, run, be/remain valid, be current, function, be efficacious, hold good, be the case
1.2Manage (a business): many foreign companies operate factories in the United States
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, conduct, carry on, govern, administer, superintend, head (up), lead, look after, supervise, oversee, preside over, be in control/charge of
1.3 [no object, with adverbial] (Of an organization) be managed in a specified way or from a specified place: neither company had operated within the terms of its constitution
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.
1.4 [no object, with adverbial] (Of an armed force) conduct military activities in a specified area: 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] Be in effect: there is a powerful law which 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).
3 [no object] Perform a surgical operation: 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, carry out an operation, intervene
informal put someone under the knife


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

Words that rhyme with operate


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: op¦er|ate

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