Abstract Polycrystalline ZnO doped with Mn (5 and 10 at%) was prepared by the co-precipitation method. The effect of Mn doping on the photocatalytic, antibacterial activities and the influence of doping concentration on structural, optical properties of nanoparticles were studied. Structural and optical properties of the particles elucidated that the Mn 2+ ions have substituted the Zn 2+ ions without changing the Wurtzite structure of ZnO. The optical spectra showed a blue shift in the absorbance spectrum with increasing dopant concentration. The photocatalytic activities of ZnO powders were evaluated by measuring the degradation of methylene blue (MB) in water under the UV region. It was found that undoped ZnO bleaches MB much faster than manganese doped ZnO upon its exposure to the UV light. The potential toxicity of nanosized ZnO and Mn doped ZnO were investigated using both Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria as test organisms. The results showed that Mn doped ZnO nanoparticles enhanced the antibacterial activity than ZnO nanoparticles.