Bond, James Bond, is perhaps the most famous fictional operative of our time. Martini-drinking, globe-trotting, and womanizing aside, let us not forget his primary role as a government secret agent — collecting intelligence and bringing down the world's enemies.

As a noun, operative is often used as a synonym for spy. It can also, less covertly, be used to name a skilled worker, as in "No one aligns gears better than Joe, an operative at the car factory." As an adjective, operative can mean that something is working, as in "an operative car alarm." Finally, operative can mean "the most important or effective word." James Bond is a fictional operative, and the operative word in that statement is fictional.

Definitions of operative
  1. adjective
    effective; producing a desired effect
    “the operative word”
    important, significant
    important in effect or meaning
  2. adjective
    being in force or having or exerting force
    operative regulations”
    “the major tendencies operative in the American political system”
    having influence or producing an effect
    effective, good, in effect, in force
    exerting force or influence
    in operation, operating, operational
    being in effect or operation
    serving to permit or facilitate further work or activity
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    not working or taking effect
    not functioning (temporarily or permanently)
    out of use or operation because of a fault or breakdown
    no longer in force or use; inactive
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  3. adjective
    (of e.g. a machine) performing or capable of performing
    synonyms: functional, running, working
    performing or able to perform its regular function
  4. adjective
    relating to or requiring or amenable to treatment by surgery especially as opposed to medicine
    operative dentistry”
    synonyms: surgical
    happening or done before and in preparation for a surgical operation
    happening or done after a surgical operation
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    requiring or amenable to treatment by medicine especially as opposed to surgery
  5. noun
    someone who can be employed as a detective to collect information
    synonyms: PI, private detective, private eye, private investigator, shamus, sherlock
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    hotel detective, house detective, house dick
    a private detective employed by a hotel or retail store
    inquiry agent
    a private detective
    store detective
    a private detective employed by a merchant to stop pilferage
    type of:
    an investigator engaged or employed in obtaining information not easily available to the public
  6. noun
    a person secretly employed in espionage for a government
    synonyms: intelligence agent, intelligence officer, secret agent
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    Margarete Gertrud Zelle
    Dutch dancer who was executed by the French as a German spy in World War I (1876-1917)
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    an operative serving as a penetration into an intelligence target
    agent provocateur, provocateur
    a secret agent who incites suspected persons to commit illegal acts
    bridge agent
    an operative who acts as a courier or go-between from a case officer to a secret agent in a hostile area
    case officer
    an operative who also serves as an official staffer of an intelligence service
    codetalker, windtalker
    a secret agent who was one of the Navajos who devised and used a code based on their native language; the code was unbroken by the Japanese during World War II
    a member of a surveillance team who works on foot or rides as a passenger
    an undercover agent who is given no official cover
    spy, undercover agent
    (military) a secret agent hired by a state to obtain information about its enemies or by a business to obtain industrial secrets from competitors
    an operative who initiates his own defection (usually to a hostile country) for political asylum
    action officer
    the case officer designated to perform an act during a clandestine operation (especially in a hostile area)
    counterspy, mole
    a spy who works against enemy espionage
    double agent
    a spy who works for two mutually antagonistic countries
    espionage agent
    someone employed to spy on another country or business competitor
    foreign agent
    a spy for a foreign country
    someone who takes up a position surreptitiously for the purpose of espionage
    a spy or saboteur or terrorist planted in an enemy country who lives there as a law-abiding citizen until activated by a prearranged signal
    type of:
    a representative who acts on behalf of other persons or organizations
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘operative'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
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