Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

operate - definition and synonyms


What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.



The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

verb operate pronunciation in British English /ˈɒpəreɪt/
Word Forms
present tense
present participleoperating
past tenseoperated
past participleoperated
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  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 Europe for two years.
    operate as: Richardson’s will in future operate as a subsidiary of AFA.
    operate under/within: All the parties have to operate within the democratic system.
    operate on a basis/principle: The organization operates on a non-profit basis.
    1. a.
      [transitive] to run a company or organization
      The car hire business is operated as a separate company.
  3. 3
    [transitive] to organize a service or system and make it available to people
    The government will operate an interest-free loan system.
    a licence to operate a passenger transport network
    1. a.
      [intransitive] if a service or system operates, it exists and is available
      Flights operate every day from Birmingham.
  4. 4
    [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.
  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
    operate as: The sales staff usually operate as a team.
    operate by doing something: Carlson operated by gaining people’s confidence and then taking their money.
    She won’t argue with you – that’s not how she operates.


a meal served in the evening which consists of foods traditionally eaten at breakfast

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary

troll factory

a company that pays its employees to write online comments in favour or against somebody or something posing as ordinary Internet users

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog