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operate - definition and synonyms


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verb operate pronunciation in American English /ˈɑpəˌreɪt/
Word Forms
present tense
present participleoperating
past tenseoperated
past participleoperated
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  1. 1
    [intransitive] if equipment operates, it works and does what it is intended to do
    The ventilation equipment was not operating properly.
    operate on/at: Many computers were still operating on a two-digit dating system.
    The motor operates at very high speeds.
    1. a.
      [transitive] to use and control a piece of equipment
      You should not operate machinery after taking this medication.
      My job was to operate the telephone switchboard.
  2. 2
    [intransitive] if an organization or company operates, it does its work
    The company has been operating in South America for two years.
    operate as: The new business will operate as a subsidiary of our company.
    operate under/within: All the parties have to operate within the democratic system.
    operate on a basis/principle: The organization operates on a nonprofit basis.
    1. a.
      [transitive] to run a company or organization
      The casino is operated as a separate business from the hotel.
  3. 3
    [intransitive] to cut into part of someones body for medical reasons
    Surgeons had to operate to remove the bullet.
    operate on: The driver of the car was operated on immediately.
    We may have to operate on your leg.
  4. 4
    [transitive] to organize a service or system and make it available to people
    This government agency operates the war on drugs.
    a license to operate an airport limousine service
    1. a.
      [intransitive] if a service or system operates, it exists and is available
      Flights operate daily from Miami.
  5. 5
    [intransitive] if something such as a rule, idea, or fact operates, it exists and has an effect in a particular situation
    Racism operates at many levels, conscious and unconscious.
    Very different factors were operating in the local and national elections.
    operate as: This law effectively operates as a tax on education.
  6. 6
    [intransitive] if someone operates in a particular way, that is how they achieve what they want to do
    She won’t argue with you, that’s not how she operates.
    operate by doing something: Carlson operated by gaining people’s confidence and then taking their money.
    operate as: The sales force usually operates as a team.


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