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


  • IPA(key): /ˈɒpəɹeɪt/
  • (file)


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.
  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.
  3. (transitive or intransitive) To act or produce effect on the mind; to exert moral power or influence.
    • (Can we date this quote by Atterbury and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      The virtues of private persons operate but on a few.
    • (Can we date this quote by Jonathan Swift and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      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.
  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 1, 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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The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.




operate pl

  1. plural of operata



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





  1. vocative masculine singular of operātus