Definition of operative in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɒp(ə)rətɪv/


1Functioning or having effect: the transmitter is operative the mining ban would remain operative
More example sentences
  • They will not be operative there and in effect it is the same as being anywhere else in the country.
  • Still, the crowding-out effect is operative as the new money ‘printed’ by the government is competing for resources with old money saved by the public.
  • In 1999 and 2000, its members decided to transfer its operative functions into the EU, in order to strengthen its European Security and Defence Policy.
1.1 [attributive] (Of a word) having the most significance in a phrase or sentence: I was madly—the operative word—in love
More example sentences
  • And supposed is the operative word in that sentence, right?
  • Might is, of course, the operative word in that sentence, but who knows?
  • However the operative word in my last sentence was ‘when’!
2 [attributive] Relating to surgery: wounds needing operative treatment
More example sentences
  • For some major types of surgery, operative mortality is an important measure of performance.
  • Patients found unfit on account of low PFT values for a particular type of surgery were rejected for operative procedure.
  • However, the medical therapy is generally not very effective and should be reserved for patients unwilling to undergo dilation or surgery or poor operative candidates.


1A worker, especially one in a manufacturing industry: the operatives clean the machines at the end of every shift
More example sentences
  • The lay people, it should be added, are most likely to be the technical operatives in the seed industry in the USA.
  • Pride of place must go to our local County Council operatives and temporary workers who led by splendid example throughout.
  • Most were packers but others worked as machine operatives or fork-lift truck drivers.
machinist, (machine) operator, mechanic, engineer, driver, worker, workman, (factory) hand, artisan, craftsman, craftswoman, blue-collar worker;
British  machine minder
2chiefly North American A secret agent or private detective: a CIA operative
More example sentences
  • A secret CIA operative, he committed 33 assassinations - or so Confessions of a Dangerous Mind would have us believe.
  • Intelligence analysts and operatives surf its secrets with the ease of an Internet user shopping for books online.
  • Cooper has repeatedly refused to reveal his confidential sources, sources for an article he wrote about the naming of the secret CIA operative.
North American informal spook
archaic intelligencer
archaic, informal beagle
British  enquiry agent
informal private eye, tail
North American informal, dated gumshoe, bogey, dick



Pronunciation: /ˈɒp(ə)rətɪvli/
Example sentences
  • Many very low birthweight infants 316 were delivered operatively, as a reflection of either maternal indications such as uncontrolled pre-eclampsia or fetal distress after premature labour.
  • Whether the players were treated operatively or nonoperatively, we found reduced performance in the functional tests and reduced muscle strength in the involved leg compared with the uninvolved leg.
  • The press member is operatively connected to the container body for movement of the press member between a wringing position and a non-wringing position relative to the wringing surface of the container body.




Late Middle English: from late Latin operativus, from Latin operat- 'done by labour', from the verb operari (see operate).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: op¦era|tive

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