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Activate means to set in action or to put in a condition where the thing being activated is ready for action.

For example, I don’t know if this is true everywhere, but here in Canada, when a bank sends you a new credit card, the card is usually unusable when you get it. Before you can use the card, you normally have to activate call the bank, and tell the bank that you received the card and give the bank some personal information, hopefully information that a thief wouldn’t know, to prove you are you. The bank will then set a code in their computers that indicates that your card can now be accepted by merchants. This is called activating your card.

If someone, unbeknownst to you, activates your card on your behalf they’re probably going to have one hell of a good time, while you subsequently spend a large portion of your life trying to convince the bank that it wasn’t you who activated the card, it wasn’t you who made the purchases, and, therefore, you don’t rightly owe them any money; so please stop the interest-clock and call off the frigging relentless bill collectors.

Activate also has a military meaning. If troops are activated it means that they are put on active duty. It will then become much more likely that one or more of the soldiers will get a boo-boo, possibly a fatal boo-boo.

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