Definition of operate in US English:



  • 1with object (of a person) control the functioning of (a machine, process, or system)

    ‘a shortage of workers to operate new machines’
    • ‘He revealed that security guards operating the machine since it was installed three weeks ago have found penknives, darts, syringes and large screwdrivers on people coming into the court.’
    • ‘Although most of the pilots had not operated this system, several had a good working knowledge of the system.’
    • ‘Due to the automation and ease of operation, one person can operate the entire system.’
    • ‘Surgeons would operate the system from a remote video console which is linked to robotic instruments positioned above the operating table.’
    • ‘Doctors usually operate CAT scan machines from a separate room so they aren't repeatedly exposed to radiation.’
    • ‘Although the home-exchange agencies don't vet potential swappers, they do operate a monitoring system.’
    • ‘Less that 600 days after that small mewling creature came out into the world, she was operating the machine herself, slamming in CDs and pushing the buttons.’
    • ‘In that process, because of cultural norms, it was assumed that only men could operate machines.’
    • ‘The young man operating that machine is careful to fold the end of the tape back on itself, leaving a little shirttail.’
    • ‘Since 1997 he has operated a passive-radar system unshrouded by military secrecy.’
    • ‘‘There are five or six tiers of responsibility to monitor the programme, but it is only as good the people operating the system,’ he added.’
    • ‘Carter acknowledges that the primary selling point for using robotic total stations is the freedom of having one person operate the system from the target.’
    • ‘It was a big room with huge glasses, through which I could see three persons operating the monitoring system and watching the dashboard.’
    • ‘John explained that the teams operating the traction engines and threshing mills will have them working for twenty minutes at a time several times a day so that the public can gain a picture of what the work was like.’
    • ‘These are defibrillator machines designed to be operated by members of the public.’
    • ‘The show will be directed by the company chairman, Jenny Orman, who has spent the last couple of years operating the theatre lighting system.’
    • ‘They point to the fact that some police officers already operating the Tetra radio system south of the Border have complained about suffering the same symptoms.’
    • ‘A person operating our control system could take it in stride.’
    • ‘He also believes that the people operating machines or carrying out processes are usually those who know best how to get the optimum performance from them.’
    • ‘The soldiers operating each of the systems create overlays from the data contained in their respective systems.’
    work, make go, run, set off, use, utilize, employ, handle, control, wield, ply, manage, be in charge of
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    1. 1.1no object, with adverbial (of a machine, process, or system) function in a specified manner.
      ‘market forces were allowed to operate freely’
      • ‘Private copying levies already operate efficiently in many European countries.’
      • ‘The US has a witness protection programme that has been operating effectively for years.’
      • ‘Rather than being caused by the market, crises occurred when market mechanisms did not operate freely.’
      • ‘Although the plane's engines were operating normally, investigators found that it was travelling too slow to lift off safely.’
      • ‘The flight passed a head nod down the line signaling that all engines were operating correctly and all systems were go.’
      • ‘To make sure your system operates efficiently, examine it frequently, checking for leaks, clogs, or misdirected sprinklers or drip-emitters.’
      • ‘While this system operates efficiently when only a single pair of achiasmate chromosomes is present, multiple pairs of large chromosomes cannot be distinguished.’
      • ‘In Iraq, our manned and unmanned aircraft continue to operate successfully in the hostile desert environment.’
      • ‘If the dissolution process has operated efficiently through time, then extensive caves will be found in a limestone massif.’
      • ‘The trade is operating effectively, efficiently and economically.’
      • ‘The days when a single service could operate independently and do major things on the global playing field are over.’
      • ‘Services are operating normally at all airports, and the Heathrow and Gatwick Express services are running to their normal timetables.’
      • ‘Given such a constitutional framework, the most efficient economic system allows markets to operate freely, as individuals buy or sell commodities and services including their own labour.’
      • ‘The osteoporosis process can operate silently for decades.’
      • ‘On inspection it was found that everything in the recently developed transmission was operating perfectly, the jamming in fourth gear traced to the mating of the standard gear linkage to the new gearbox.’
      • ‘He saw that heating systems were not operating efficiently and decided, with his wife Mae, to fix the problem.’
      • ‘However, international production systems can operate efficiently only when companies have easier access to imported inputs.’
      function, work, go, run, perform, act, be in action, behave, be in running order, be in working order, be operative
      take effect, act, be in effect, be in force, be in operation, stand, apply, be applied, run, be valid, remain valid, be current, function, be efficacious, hold good, be the case
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    2. 1.2no object Be in effect.
      ‘there is a powerful law that operates in politics’
      • ‘For much of this war, a strategic ‘seesaw’ effect operated - a side defeated in battle recovered its strength far more quickly than the victor.’
      • ‘My answer is that certainly it is necessary that such laws operate in order for effects brought about directly by the agent to have ulterior consequences.’
      • ‘It was a passage which was concerned with whether there was a general implication to the effect that Commonwealth laws are not to operate in a discriminatory fashion.’
      • ‘The law of cause and effect operates only in the realm of nature (the empirical realm).’
      • ‘If you back off and look at this field as a whole, what you see is that the nonlocal effects of consciousness operate across an immense spectrum of nature.’
      • ‘There may be some deterministic effects operating here, however.’
      • ‘Obviously, there are both price and income effects operating, in that income itself is the multiple of the wage rate and the number of hours worked.’
      • ‘The rule of law operates as a bar to untrammeled discretionary power.’
      • ‘One of those policies operated in effect, he said, to reduce the provision of housing in the region up until 2016 from the 357,400 houses envisaged by the panel to only 256,000.’
      • ‘The original creation of a global from a European international society can be read in this light, and there is every reason to think that this structural effect continues to operate.’
      • ‘In his book Pity the Nation, British journalist Robert Fisk explains in some detail the way the land laws operated and to what effect.’
      • ‘It is the essential basis on which the criminal law operates.’
      • ‘The Minister for Justice has to ensure the rule of law operates in every part of the country.’
    3. 1.3 (of a person or organization) manage and run (a business)
      ‘many foreign companies operate factories in the U.S’
      • ‘He kept a herd of goats and operated a small business.’
      • ‘Without owning a private generator or two it would be impossible to operate some businesses, not to speak of having to cancel appointments, of planned functions being disrupted.’
      • ‘He and Corrine have been operating the business since 1997, first from home and then from premises in the township.’
      • ‘IT manages the information that's needed to operate a business.’
      • ‘Callaghan now operates a publishing business in Ireland, while Bates has started one in Spain.’
      • ‘Any illegal found operating a business without a licence gets deported.’
      • ‘The planned taxes were also strongly opposed by foreign investors, especially Japanese firms, who are mostly operating export-oriented businesses on the island.’
      • ‘Taxes incurred in operating your business are generally deductible.’
      • ‘At least that's how managers try to operate such businesses.’
      • ‘Something else to keep in mind is what is known as goal displacement - in which the goals of those operating the business displace the actual business goals.’
      • ‘Consultants in private practice are operating a business and should pay their own overheads or else take their business out of the hospital.’
      • ‘After owning and operating the business for more than 10 years, Richard and Susan both decided they wanted a change of pace.’
      • ‘At that time, Pegasus stated its commitment to working with current management and operating the bicycle business as a going concern.’
      • ‘There's an important lesson you have to learn when you own and operate your own business: your employees don't think like you.’
      • ‘Successful owners have learned that managerial reports are the key to operating a profitable business and being able to make better decisions faster.’
      • ‘A builder has been fined £3,500 for operating a business in Radcliffe without planning permission.’
      • ‘The planned tax has also raised strong protests from foreign investors, especially in Japan, who mostly operate export-oriented businesses on the island.’
      • ‘For example, if you operate a business that has a high rate of employee turnover, you may want to adopt a plan that allows you to have a vesting schedule for your contributions.’
      • ‘The company also operates an import business, which handles roughly 60 percent of all French cheese imported to the United States.’
      • ‘She has been operating her business for three years - it has a turnover of about $10,000 a year and employs a small staff.’
      direct, control, manage, run, conduct, carry on, govern, administer, superintend, head, head up, lead, look after, supervise, oversee, preside over, be in charge of, be in control of
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    4. 1.4no object, with adverbial (of an organization) be managed and run in a specified way.
      ‘neither company had operated within the terms of its charter’
      • ‘The state is commonly viewed as the primary source of the institutional framework within which organizations operate.’
      • ‘Ten organizations operated in all four of our country settings.’
      • ‘Target groups would include the public at large as well as public servants and regional organizations operating in the Caribbean.’
      • ‘It's rewarding to know that the organization is operating in sound financial order.’
      • ‘Planned change as a mode of strategy formulation and implementation implies that the organization is operating in an environment in which the future may either be predicted or created.’
      • ‘In reality it is unusual to see this method, primarily due to the complexity involved in calculation and the unstable environment within which most organizations operate.’
      • ‘Extremist organizations are operating on university campuses across the UK and pose a serious threat to national security, according to a new report.’
      • ‘This decline occurs when an organization is operating in a stable or growing macroniche, but is fraught with self-induced problems.’
      • ‘The specific industry environment in which organizations operate can have an impact on the strategic direction of a firm.’
      • ‘Moreover, factions within an organization may operate from a postmodern, modern, or even premodern orientation.’
      • ‘The move comes in the wake of a recent visit to Sri Lanka by a British minister who said Britain will ‘not tolerate’ terrorist organizations operating on its soil.’
      • ‘However, there are strong divisions between these groups, even within organizations operating together.’
      • ‘The big test comes when the two organizations actually operate together.’
      • ‘The new research institute is a post-genomic era organization operating in a global context.’
      • ‘Different representations may have more or less fidelity to the actual environment in which an organization operates.’
      • ‘HR flow policies can be strongly influenced by the national cultural assumptions within which the organization operates.’
      • ‘Most other organizations operate by encouragement and attempting to establish standards of good forest management.’
      • ‘Evidently you, your editor, and your organization do not operate under the same rules of journalism.’
      • ‘Impressive as that was, the organization operated in a country the size of Massachusetts with an annual budget of just $2.5 million.’
      • ‘Fortunately, not all people and organizations operate in this fashion.’
    5. 1.5no object, with adverbial (of an armed force) conduct military activities in a specified area or from a specified base.
      ‘the mountain bases from which the guerrillas were operating’
      • ‘They also don't have the easy target that Cornwallis gave them at Yorktown, though there is a small British force operating in the area.’
      • ‘Coalition forces currently operate in a unique environment: a situation of international armed conflict within a state which is not a party to the conflict.’
      • ‘Instead, armored and mechanized task forces operate in or near population centers, compounding the difficulty of their assigned tasks.’
      • ‘‘UK armed forces operate in Iraq in accordance with relevant English law,’ a ministry spokesman said.’
      • ‘Modern technology and design assist in urban control while complicating the terrain in which a military force might operate.’
      • ‘Second, U.S. forces increasingly operate in the challenging environment known as military operations other than war.’
      • ‘This was seen in World War II, when U.S. forces operating in the Pacific theater competed for resources with those in the European theater.’
      • ‘The dynamic interaction between cities and the military forces operating in them redefines and reshapes those forces over time.’
      • ‘These 10 issues are as diversified as the units in this joint medical task force operating in the KTO.’
      • ‘Others have in effect been kidnapped by CIA agents or military special forces units operating in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.’
      • ‘The only people really that recognize the border, quite frankly, are soldiers from the U.S. military who are operating in that area.’
      • ‘Not clear right now who is responsible for the attack, but U.S. Central Command says that coalition forces were not operating in the area at the time of the attack.’
      • ‘Constrained by the tyranny of terrain, ground forces operate in a world of friction and position.’
      • ‘Large armed forces operating in centralized command structures would not be suited for such fighting, they argued, and in fact would be vulnerable.’
      • ‘His number tells me he was detained by U.S. forces operating in the region of Southwest Asia.’
      • ‘His is one of a number of forces with armed militia operating in the country.’
      • ‘This relationship has recently been reaffirmed and reinterpreted to provide for greater logistical support to U.S. forces operating in the area.’
      • ‘My job was to document the war efforts of U.S. military forces operating out of Thailand.’
      • ‘You don't organize military forces to go operate somewhere unless you know what the target is, where it is, how it moves.’
      • ‘It takes 800 vehicle missions each day just to supply forces operating in Iraq.’
  • 2no object Perform a surgical operation.

    ‘surgeons operated on on his jaw yesterday morning’
    ‘doctors refused to operate because of the risks involved’
    • ‘She alleges that the surgeon who operated on her was negligent in that what was supposed to be a simple surgical procedure resulted in partial paralysis of her left side.’
    • ‘British surgeons told them that surgery was too risky, but they read about a pioneering brain surgeon in America who had successfully operated on a two-year-old girl with a brain tumour.’
    • ‘He operated on the bird and treated it with antibiotics.’
    • ‘He said the hospital had received 40 patients this year and operated on 10, compared with just two or three such operations last year.’
    • ‘The eminent surgeon who had been asked to perform ileostomy refused to operate because he thought it much better for the boy and society that nature be left to take her course.’
    • ‘She swears the only doctor who has helped her reach Mount Olympus is the surgeon who operated on her knee.’
    • ‘But Franz also operated on her chin, eyes, and cheek bones.’
    • ‘Concerns about the standard of care were further highlighted by the fact that the surgeon who eventually operated on the man was given the wrong endoscope, which in any case wasn't working.’
    • ‘My experience of the NHS, from the superb and knighted surgeon who operated on me to the Indian tea lady with her endless cups, was one of kindness, courtesy and concern.’
    • ‘And he is horrified that if he had had opted for his son to have a general anaesthetic, which he was offered, the dental surgeon at Leeds Dental Institute could have operated on the wrong side.’
    • ‘The first time that Norton saw the third patient, a music teacher from Wakefield known as Mr B, was just before he operated on him in December 1993.’
    • ‘Surgeons at the specialist hospital operated on the colonel on Wednesday night.’
    • ‘Lewis was told her daughter needed a lung transplant or she would not reach five, but that surgeons at the hospital had never operated on such a small child: even now she weighs only 20 lb.’
    • ‘In exasperation Philip went to a London specialist who operated on his back two weeks ago, fusing the bottom two vertebrae together and adding a bone graft from his hips to lend the entire area added stability.’
    • ‘The surgeon who operated on him, now the godfather of his son, has since elaborated that much more internal bleeding would have cost him his life.’
    • ‘The vicious attack has left his life in ruins after surgeons, who operated on his leg, told him he will never fully recover.’
    • ‘Two surgeons, Wisheart and Dhasmana, operated on patients suffering from acquired and congenital heart disease, both adults and children.’
    • ‘He operated on Shannon in the immediate aftermath of the mountain lion attack and is scheduled for another operation with her on Friday.’
    • ‘David's operation and unbelievable progress were captured on film by the Caribbean surgeons who operated on him and may be used in a TV documentary in the future.’
    • ‘The surgeons who operated on him thought he might never walk again.’
    perform surgery, carry out an operation, intervene
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Early 17th century: from Latin operat- ‘done by labor’, from the verb operari, from opus, oper- ‘work’.