activate, actuate
Activate (17c) originally meant ‘to make active’ (as in activate the lungs). It fell out of use for a time at the end of the 19c, and was marked as obsolete in the first OED. New uses in physics, chemistry, and other branches of science have brought it back into prominence and actuate (also 17c in current meanings), once dominant, is now in decline (under 500 in the OEC). Activate (over 10,000 in the OEC) is the normal word in mechanical contexts such as burglar alarms, traffic lights, flight plans, and also occasionally in the context of human behaviour, where the choice is perhaps influenced by motivate (e.g. Are they activated by concern for public morality?). Actuate, which has a much higher proportion of passive uses with by than does activate, is less common in physical and mechanical contexts, and is generally restricted to less appealing abstract qualities such as anger, greed, jealousy, malice, etc.

• (His opposition was actuated by a different and more compelling motive than that of her other relatives —David Cecil, 1948

• the real objects that actuate our sentiments and passions —BrE source, 2000 [OEC].

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Actuate — Ac tu*ate, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Actuated}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Actuating}.] [LL. actuatus, p. p. of actuare, fr. L. actus act.] 1. To put into action or motion; to move or incite to action; to influence actively; to move as motives do; more commonly …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Actuate — Ac tu*ate, a. [LL. actuatus, p. p. of actuare.] Put in action; actuated. [Obs.] South. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • actuate — index agitate (activate), bait (lure), constrain (compel), impel, induce, influence …   Law dictionary

  • actuate — (v.) 1590s, from M.L. actuatus, pp. of actuare, from L. actus (see ACT (Cf. act) (n.)). Related: Actuated; actuating …   Etymology dictionary

  • actuate — 1 *move, drive, impel Analogous words: stimulate, *provoke, excite, galvanize, quicken: *stir, rouse, arouse: energize, activate, *vitalize 2 *activate, motivate Analogous words: influence, * …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • actuate — [v] start a function or action, motivate activate, animate, arouse, cause, drive, egg on*, energize, excite, fire up*, impel, incite, induce, influence, inspire, instigate, key up*, mobilize, motivate, move, prompt, propel, put up to*, quicken,… …   New thesaurus

  • actuate — ► VERB 1) cause to operate. 2) motivate to act in a particular way. DERIVATIVES actuation noun actuator noun …   English terms dictionary

  • actuate — [ak′cho͞o āt΄] vt. actuated, actuating [< ML actuatus, pp. of actuare < L actus: see ACT1] 1. to put into action or motion 2. to cause to take action [what motives actuated him?] actuation n. actuator n …   English World dictionary

  • Actuate — Infobox Company company name = Actuate Corporation company company type = Public(nasdaq|ACTU) company slogan = Powering the Open Enterprise foundation = 1993 location = flagicon|California San Mateo, California key people = Nicolas C. Nierenberg …   Wikipedia

  • actuate — UK [ˈæktʃuˌeɪt] / US verb [transitive] Word forms actuate : present tense I/you/we/they actuate he/she/it actuates present participle actuating past tense actuated past participle actuated formal to make a machine or piece of equipment start… …   English dictionary

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