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[op-uh-rey-ter] /ˈɒp əˌreɪ tər/
a person who operates a machine, apparatus, or the like:
a telegraph operator.
a person who operates a telephone switchboard, especially for a telephone company.
a person who manages a working or industrial establishment, enterprise, or system:
the operators of a mine.
a person who trades in securities, especially speculatively or on a large scale.
a person who performs a surgical operation; a surgeon.
  1. a symbol for expressing a mathematical operation.
  2. a function, especially one transforming a function, set, etc., into another:
    a differential operator.
  1. a person who accomplishes his or her purposes by devious means; faker; fraud.
  2. a person who is adroit at overcoming, avoiding, or evading difficulties, regulations, or restrictions.
  3. a person who is extremely successful with or smoothly persuasive to members of the opposite sex.
Genetics. a segment of DNA that interacts with a regulatory molecule, preventing transcription of the adjacent region.
Origin of operator
1590-1600; < Late Latin, equivalent to operā() to work, effect (see operate) + Latin -tor -tor
Related forms
preoperator, noun
self-operator, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for operator
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Nor will it suffice for the operator to attend to the strength of his solutions, and keep his eye upon the clock.

  • This includes the total weight of the machine and equipment, and also the operator.

    Flying Machines W.J. Jackman and Thos. H. Russell
  • "Accident," answered the operator in a tone that led one to believe that the mere effort of speaking gave him pain.

  • Add the weight of the operator to the weight of the complete machine.

    Flying Machines W.J. Jackman and Thos. H. Russell
  • Selecting a ten-dollar note, he pushed it toward the operator, who was refilling his pipe.

    Blue Goose Frank Lewis Nason
British Dictionary definitions for operator


a person who operates a machine, instrument, etc, esp, a person who makes connections on a telephone switchboard or at an exchange
a person who owns or operates an industrial or commercial establishment
a speculator, esp one who operates on currency or stock markets
(informal) a person who manipulates affairs and other people
(maths) any symbol, term, letter, etc, used to indicate or express a specific operation or process, such as Δ (the differential operator)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for operator

1590s, "one who performs mechanical or surgical operations," agent noun from operate (v.) or from Late Latin operator. Meaning "one who carries on business shrewdly" is from 1828. Specific sense of "one who works a telephone switchboard" (1884) grew out of earlier meaning "one who works a telegraph" (1847).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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operator in Medicine

operator op·er·a·tor (ŏp'ə-rā'tər)
An operator gene.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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operator in Science
  1. Mathematics A function, especially one from a set to itself, such as differentiation of a differentiable function or rotation of a vector. In quantum mechanics, measurable quantities of a physical system, such as position and momentum, are related to unique operators applied to the wave equation describing the system.

  2. A logical operator.

  3. Genetics A segment of chromosomal DNA that regulates the activity of the structural genes of an operon by interacting with a specific repressor.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for operator



  1. A person who busily deals and manipulates, often self-importantly; dealer, wheeler-dealer (1875+)
  2. ladies' man (1950s+)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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operator in Technology

A symbol used as a function, with infix syntax if it has two arguments (e.g. "+") or prefix syntax if it has only one (e.g. Boolean NOT). Many languages use operators for built-in functions such as arithmetic and logic.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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