Definition of operative in US English:



  • 1Functioning or having effect.

    ‘the transmitter is operative’
    ‘the mining ban would remain operative’
    • ‘Causation and convergence were still operative, but they functioned more subtly, and the audience was no longer enthralled in hypothesis building.’
    • ‘A further explanation may lie in the principles and style of legal interpretation and administration that are operative in Indonesia's contemporary legal system.’
    • ‘For instance, the principle that society should share the costs of production while enjoying free access to goods at the point of delivery is one already operative in a huge public sector in most capitalist states.’
    • ‘They will not be operative there and in effect it is the same as being anywhere else in the country.’
    • ‘I also understood why the company felt the need to sever him in 1970, as his thinking was rooted firmly in marketing concepts that, by then, were simply not operative.’
    • ‘I'm thinking of something like Earl Shorris's Clemente Program, which was wildly successful, but I'm not sure if it's still operative.’
    • ‘At a fixed fare of Rs 15, the service is operative from 8 am to 9 pm.’
    • ‘In 1999 and 2000, its members decided to transfer its operative functions into the EU, in order to strengthen its European Security and Defence Policy.’
    • ‘This was probably just an old 1980s shell of the sort used against the Kurds and Iranians, and nothing suggests many of these remain or are still operative.’
    • ‘‘The euro is here, it will be operative across the continent in five days' time,’ he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.’
    • ‘Still, the crowding-out effect is operative as the new money ‘printed’ by the government is competing for resources with old money saved by the public.’
    • ‘This was a necessary condition, as most vital functions must have been operative shortly after hatching, which may have coincided with the onset of calcification.’
    • ‘The fact that there is no foreseeable or realistic prospect of deportation doesn't mean that the statutory purpose of detention pending such deportation isn't still operative.’
    • ‘It kicked off operations early last year, and was largely operative by fall - although schools, reemboldened in a chorus of complaint, have reported serious glitches in the system.’
    • ‘See if that ‘big grin’ is operative in a courtroom.’
    • ‘There was otherwise only weak evidence that natural selection might be operative at the HLA loci, and this effect (if true) appeared localized.’
    • ‘Rarely, if ever, is the functionality of a plane combined with that of any other operative tool (we never see a combined plane and bit brace, for instance).’
    • ‘While this type of effect may be operative, we note that the magnitude of the correlations between satisfaction and other perceptions varies dramatically.’
    • ‘This Club of Rome effect is now widely recognized as having been operative in the U.S. gas market.’
    • ‘These issues are unlikely to be resolved until a Chief of Defence Staff is appointed and given the authority over the service chiefs to make the SF Command truly operative.’
    in force, in operation, effective, in effect, valid
    functioning, working, running, up and running, in operation, in use, in action, going
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    1. 1.1attributive (of a word) having the most relevance or significance in a phrase or sentence.
      ‘a young man, and the operative word is young, should go into the armed services at around seventeen’
      • ‘The operative word in the definition of credit fee is ‘creditor’.’
      • ‘I got on a train with my wife and after a few moments realized that I was the odd man out - ‘man’ being the operative word.’
      • ‘But the operative words are ‘some’ and ‘the top half’.’
      • ‘If there are any patrons out there who want to shed some charitable contributions in IR's direction we can guarantee some crazy return on investment: Crazy being the operative word.’
      • ‘However the operative word in my last sentence was ‘when’!’
      • ‘The operative word is fair, for soon the City might itself be experimenting with privatisation of water, with French multinational companies running the show.’
      • ‘Well, the operative word there, Miles, is waiting.’
      • ‘Well, you know, Larry, the operative word here is ‘proof,’ and that is there are studies about everything and anyone can make a study.’
      • ‘Is the operative word here ‘talk’ or ‘classified’?’
      • ‘And I was asleep. ‘Was’ being the operative word.’
      • ‘But the operative words are ‘almost everything’.’
      • ‘And supposed is the operative word in that sentence, right?’
      • ‘But the operative word was ‘if’ and she was still clinging to the ‘if’ yesterday.’
      • ‘The operative word was ‘intrigue,’ and that word was the operative word every day for 25 years.’
      • ‘Might is, of course, the operative word in that sentence, but who knows?’
      • ‘‘Independent’ is the operative word, for it was clear even then that the wind was blowing in the direction of corporatisation and integrated players.’
      • ‘The operative word is ‘dead’ because apart from the fact that it was nearly 8pm, there were only a dozen or so cars in the car park and what is even worse, we were the only diners in the lovely restaurant.’
      • ‘I was going to be prepared too… was being the operative word!’
      • ‘Consumption is the operative word for US water use.’
      • ‘If this change causes you any problems with the look of the site, please let me know so I can try to fix it (‘try to’ being the operative words).’
      key, significant, relevant, applicable, pertinent, apposite, germane, apropos, crucial, critical, main, chief, major, central, pivotal, fundamental, vital, important, essential
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  • 2attributive Relating to surgery.

    ‘they had wounds needing operative treatment’
    • ‘For some major types of surgery, operative mortality is an important measure of performance.’
    • ‘Impaired ventricular function in itself is not an absolute contraindication to cardiac surgery, although the operative risks are increased.’
    • ‘Of 781 cases, we found case notes for 714, and, out of these, we analysed the 703 cases that involved operative treatment.’
    • ‘The patient had an excellent clinical result after the first surgery and requested operative repair of this rupture.’
    • ‘However, the medical therapy is generally not very effective and should be reserved for patients unwilling to undergo dilation or surgery or poor operative candidates.’
    • ‘Fractures with even small amounts of displacement are prone to nonunion, and operative treatment is recommended.’
    • ‘Rates of operative mortality and major complications with these procedures are low.’
    • ‘The 10-mm operative laparoscopy was developed, and surgical procedures were seen only by the eye of the surgeon through the lens.’
    • ‘In addition, the transcervical approach has fewer associated side effects, decreased operative time and minimal postoperative hospitalization.’
    • ‘All our surgeries have a certain operative mortality associated with them.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, the high incidence of macrosomia and other complications often results in cesarean or other operative delivery.’
    • ‘With the year on year increase in rates of operative delivery it is important to evaluate the impact of obstetric interventions on future reproductive outcome and subsequent mode of delivery.’
    • ‘Patients found unfit on account of low PFT values for a particular type of surgery were rejected for operative procedure.’
    • ‘Most, if not all, postoperative organ dysfunction and morbidity associated with major operative procedures may be related to changes induced by stress caused by the operation.’
    • ‘The operative technique used for angioplasty in these patients is now obsolete.’
    • ‘The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine cites elective operative mortality rates of five per cent, which means 95 per cent of patients survive and go on to lead a normal life.’
    • ‘Patient selection is crucial, as the operative morbidity and mortality may be unacceptable in patients with limited cardiopulmonary reserve.’
    • ‘The signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are usually evident as early as, or even before, the first missed menstrual period, so prompt diagnosis and operative treatment can prevent major trouble.’
    • ‘The time between injury and operative treatment was longer than in the meniscectomy group.’
    • ‘All tracheotomies were operative tracheotomies, and no percutaneous dilatational tracheostomies were performed.’


  • 1A worker, especially a skilled one in a manufacturing industry.

    • ‘Large sectors of the textile industries operated on credit extended to domestic operatives.’
    • ‘Hardware engineers, production operatives and warehouse staff are going to be the hardest hit.’
    • ‘Rates of mobility among factory operatives in the period were extremely high.’
    • ‘The lay people, it should be added, are most likely to be the technical operatives in the seed industry in the USA.’
    • ‘Until recently we have worked on a scheduled basis so street cleaning operatives were given a list of what areas they were to clean on what days.’
    • ‘Pride of place must go to our local County Council operatives and temporary workers who led by splendid example throughout.’
    • ‘He has carried on working three or four days a week as a general operative at Elmar plastic moulding manufacturers in Greenbridge.’
    • ‘Tradesmen and general operatives attached to unions claimed Kilcrat Homes had employed workers on the black market.’
    • ‘He worked as a computer operative at a local mail order company setting up websites but police say he had been applying for jobs elsewhere and had good results.’
    • ‘In addition, the presence of field operatives on the ground helps raise public awareness and deters polluters.’
    • ‘In 1954 the claimant, then 21 years of age, began to work for the first defendant as a machine operative.’
    • ‘Most were packers but others worked as machine operatives or fork-lift truck drivers.’
    • ‘Falling trees, flooding and some structural damage to the old mill in Ballisodare kept council operatives busy.’
    • ‘Machine operatives would often outright purchase citizens votes or promise some form of patronage.’
    • ‘Call-centre operatives have different scripts to fit each category.’
    • ‘The grant was for land to provide a site for a Trades Hall and Literary Institute at Sydney for the use of artificers and operatives.’
    • ‘Machines are manned by operatives in fixed positions, recruited and trained to fit specific jobs.’
    • ‘To improve the safety of our operatives and other road users the new vehicles have been carefully designed to be highly visible.’
    • ‘The IFA leader said livestock marts cannot be expected to act as operatives for the Department of Agriculture.’
    • ‘But from April my husband, who works as a machine operative in the factory, will be paying 1 percent extra on his national insurance.’
    machinist, operator, machine operator, mechanic, engineer, driver, worker, workman, hand, factory hand, artisan, craftsman, craftswoman, blue-collar worker
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    1. 1.1North American A private detective or secret agent.
      • ‘Pinkerton instructed his operatives to focus their efforts on debriefing former slaves.’
      • ‘I'll stipulate that it is a felony to disclose the name of an undercover CIA operative who has been posted overseas in recent years.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, outside in the cool air, the happiest Secret Service operatives in all of America are bouncing on their feet to keep warm.’
      • ‘She wondered why three operatives from the CIA would come to her house, hoping that her father was okay.’
      • ‘A depressed Agent Jay is now a senior operative in the eponymous secret government bureau.’
      • ‘Revealing the identity of a CIA operative is a felony in this country.’
      • ‘His escorts were two CIA operatives who did this type of thing for a living.’
      • ‘An explosive story: the investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA operative's identity.’
      • ‘Intelligence analysts and operatives surf its secrets with the ease of an Internet user shopping for books online.’
      • ‘The White House insider was indicted yesterday on five counts related to the leaking of a CIA operative's identity.’
      • ‘Someone in the White House deliberately exposed a CIA operative for political gain, pure and simple.’
      • ‘But neither one of these two fine Americans told me that she was an undercover operative at the CIA.’
      • ‘A secret CIA operative, he committed 33 assassinations - or so Confessions of a Dangerous Mind would have us believe.’
      • ‘You know with skills like that you might be better employed as a spy, a CIA operative or something, instead of being a therapist.’
      • ‘The U.S. Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into how a CIA operative's name was made public.’
      • ‘The enemy fired, attempting to hit Walker in the leg to disable him, but at the last moment, the CIA operative had started to hit the deck, sending the bullet right into his body armor.’
      • ‘An operative of the Bulgarian secret police stabbed him with an umbrella, the point of which had been poisoned with ricin.’
      • ‘Just to remind our viewers, the potential crime here is that it's against the law to knowingly leak the identity of an undercover CIA or intelligence operative.’
      • ‘There is a seemingly intriguing feature for the requirements necessary to be a CIA operative that ends up being a waste of time, while the disc proper is closed out with a trailer.’
      • ‘Cooper has repeatedly refused to reveal his confidential sources, sources for an article he wrote about the naming of the secret CIA operative.’
      agent, secret agent, undercover agent, spy, mole, plant, double agent, counterspy
      detective, private detective, investigator, private investigator, sleuth, shadow
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Late Middle English: from late Latin operativus, from Latin operat- ‘done by labor’, from the verb operari (see operate).