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From Latin operātus, past participle of operārī (to work, labor, toil, have effect), from opus, operis (work, labor).



operate (third-person singular simple present operates, present participle operating, simple past and past participle operated)

  1. (transitive or intransitive) To perform a work or labour; to exert power or strength, physical or mechanical; to act.
    Could someone explain how this meeting operates?
    In this town, the garbage removal staff operate between six o'clock at midnight.
    The police had inside knowledge of how the gang operated.
  2. (transitive or intransitive) To produce an appropriate physical effect; to issue in the result designed by nature; especially (medicine) to take appropriate effect on the human system.
    • 2010, Peter A. Frensch, Ralf Schwarzer, Cognition and Neuropsychology:
      The drug operates by facilitating the negative neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), resulting in the blocking of neural long-term potentiation.
  3. (transitive or intransitive) To act or produce effect on the mind; to exert moral power or influence.
    • 1706 September 19 (Gregorian calendar), Francis Atterbury, “A Sermon Preach’d in the Guild-Hall Chapel, London, Sept. 28. 1706. Being the Day of the Election of the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor.”, in Fourteen Sermons Preach’d on Several Occasions. [], London: [] E. P. [Edmund Parker?] for Jonah Bowyer, [], published 1708, →OCLC, page 405:
      The Virtues of private Perſons, how Bright and Exemplary ſoever, operate but on Few; on thoſe only who are near enough to obſerve, and inclin'd to imitate them: their ſphere of Action is narrow, and their Influence is confin'd to it.
    • 1720, Jonathan Swift, A Letter to a Young Clergyman:
      A plain, convincing reason operates on the mind both of a learned and ignorant hearer as long as they live.
  4. (medicine, transitive or intransitive) To perform some manual act upon a human body in a methodical manner, and usually with instruments, with a view to restore soundness or health, as in amputation, lithotomy, etc.
    The surgeon had to operate on her heart.
    I'm being operated tomorrow.
  5. (transitive or intransitive) To deal in stocks or any commodity with a view to speculative profits.
  6. (transitive or intransitive) To produce, as an effect; to cause.
    • 2012 January, Robert L. Dorit, “Rereading Darwin”, in American Scientist, volume 100, number 1, page 23:
      We live our lives in three dimensions for our threescore and ten allotted years. Yet every branch of contemporary science, from statistics to cosmology, alludes to processes that operate on scales outside of human experience: the millisecond and the nanometer, the eon and the light-year.
  7. (transitive or intransitive) To put into, or to continue in, operation or activity; to work.
    to operate a machine
    • 2013 June 14, Jonathan Freedland, “Obama's once hip brand is now tainted”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 1, page 18:
      Now we are liberal with our innermost secrets, spraying them into the public ether with a generosity our forebears could not have imagined. Where we once sent love letters in a sealed envelope, or stuck photographs of our children in a family album, now such private material is despatched to servers and clouds operated by people we don't know and will never meet.

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operate pl

  1. plural of operata



  1. inflection of operare:
    1. second-person plural present indicative
    2. second-person plural imperative
    3. feminine plural past participle





  1. vocative masculine singular of operātus




  1. second-person singular voseo imperative of operar combined with te