verb, often capitalized
bal·​kan·​ize | \ˈbȯl-kə-ˌnīz \
balkanized; balkanizing

Definition of balkanize 

transitive verb

1 : to break up (a region, a group, etc.) into smaller and often hostile units opposes the partition of Germany, and holds that the economic consequences of Balkanizing the country would be seriousTimes Literary Supplement

2 : divide, compartmentalize now pop culture has been balkanized; it is full of niches, with different groups watching and playing their own things— Richard Corliss

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from balkanize

balkanization \ˌbȯl-​kə-​nə-​ˈzā-​shən \ noun, often capitalized

Did You Know?

The Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe is named for the Balkan Mountains, which stretch through Bulgaria from its western border with Serbia to the Black Sea. (Balkan derives from a Turkish word that means "mountain.") The region known as the Balkans is commonly thought to include Albania, Greece, Romania, the European portion of Turkey, and often surrounding areas. The decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century led to a series of revolts that accelerated the fracturing of the region into a number of smaller states whose unstable coexistence led to violence that came to a head in World War I. Since 1919, balkanize and its related noun, balkanization have come to refer to the kind of divisive action that can weaken countries or groups, as well as other things.

Examples of balkanize in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Now a country in the process of expanding its first-person plural becomes more inclusive and, at the same time, more balkanized. Lance Morrow, WSJ, "Shall We Have Civil War or Second Thoughts?," 17 Aug. 2018 Politicians balkanizing the nation in order to empower themselves and their party and so forth. Fox News, "Author Shelby Steele on race relations, equality in America," 16 July 2018 Zones of transmission planning are balkanized and inefficiently small. David Roberts, Vox, "A massive new study confirms a national energy grid would pay for itself.," 3 Aug. 2018 Social media, the internet and the rise of other populist, balkanizing technologies are now calling Madison’s constitutional vision into question. WSJ, "Five Best: Jeffrey Rosen," 16 Mar. 2018 In the 1800s, unions covered only a small fraction of workers and were balkanized and relatively weak. Jay L. Zagorsky, Smithsonian, "Striking Union Workers Turned the First Labor Day into a Networking Event," 1 Sep. 2017 Even so, the sports universe is heavily balkanized online, meaning your best bet at comprehensive streaming of pro football will involve that old standby — a cable or satellite TV subscription — or cellphone service through Verizon. Anick Jesdanun,, "Ready for some football? All NFL games will air online, but watching won't be easy," 7 Sep. 2017 Conference talks, insiders fear, could be a nightmare and invite balkanized Republicans to feud even more. Stephen Ohlemacher, The Seattle Times, "Senate health care debate could be suspenseful and raucous," 26 July 2017 Conference talks, insiders fear, could be a nightmare and invite balkanized Republicans to feud even more. Washington Post, "Next up in Senate health care debate: Genuine suspense," 25 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'balkanize.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of balkanize

1918, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for balkanize

Balkan Peninsula

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about balkanize

Listen to Our Podcast about balkanize

Statistics for balkanize

Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for balkanize

The first known use of balkanize was in 1918

See more words from the same year

Comments on balkanize

What made you want to look up balkanize? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


having a pattern of small flowers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!