gal·​va·​nize | \ˈgal-və-ˌnīz \
galvanized; galvanizing

Definition of galvanize 

transitive verb

1a : to subject to the action of an electric current especially for the purpose of stimulating physiologically galvanize a muscle

b : to stimulate or excite as if by an electric shock an issue that would galvanize public opinion

2 : to coat (iron or steel) with zinc especially : to immerse in molten zinc to produce a coating of zinc-iron alloy

intransitive verb

: to react as if stimulated by an electric shock they galvanized into action

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Other Words from galvanize

galvanization \ˌgal-​və-​nə-​ˈzā-​shən \ noun
galvanizer \ˈgal-​və-​ˌnī-​zər \ noun

The Scientific Origins of Galvanize

Luigi Galvani was an Italian physician and physicist who, in the 1770s, studied the electrical nature of nerve impulses by applying electrical stimulation to frogs' leg muscles, causing them to contract. Although Galvani's theory that animal tissue contained an innate electrical impulse was disproven, the Italian word galvanismo came to describe a current of electricity especially when produced by chemical action. English speakers borrowed the word as galvanism around 1797; the verb galvanize appeared a few years later, in the early 19th century. Charlotte Brontë used the verb figuratively in her 1853 novel Villette: "Her approach always galvanized him to new and spasmodic life." These days, galvanize also means to cover metal with zinc or a zinc alloy to protect it from rust (as in galvanized carpentry nails).

Examples of galvanize in a Sentence

The group is hoping to galvanize public opinion against the proposed law. The Web site has galvanized support for the project. a factory where steel is galvanized
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Recent Examples on the Web

This is and will be a formidable challenge for organizing around progressive candidates — but perhaps not as insurmountable as galvanizing white women to repudiate white supremacy and sexism with their votes. Treva B. Lindsey, Vox, "The betrayal of white women voters: in pivotal state races, they still backed the GOP," 9 Nov. 2018 Storm’s galvanizing words are backed up by research. Robert Newhouse, Teen Vogue, "Storm Reid Gets Candid About the Moment Ava DuVernay Cast Her in "A Wrinkle in Time"," 16 Aug. 2018 But too often politicians seem more interested in using immigration as a means of galvanizing their base and demonizing their opponents than actually coming up with solutions. Ed Stetzer, Vox, "Fellow evangelicals: stop falling for Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric," 6 Nov. 2018 McGuire says the Democratic National Convention has been watching the efforts of the minority-engagement party to see how other states can galvanize black voters. Jewel Wicker, Teen Vogue, "How a Democratic "Minority-Engagement Program" Is Fighting Ohio's Voter-Roll Purges and Their Impact on Black People," 9 Oct. 2018 Over the years, so many people have told me how the show galvanized them to seek help. Rebecca Phelps, Marie Claire, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: An Oral History," 27 Sep. 2018 On Tuesday, The New York Times’ investigation of a study into how Facebook promoted anti-refugee violence in Germany galvanized discussion about how even normal political speech on the platform can drive users to extremes. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Facebook should help us understand the link between political speech and violence," 23 Aug. 2018 And that’s galvanized the scientific community, leading to a new $50 million joint U.S.-U.K. project to predict ice melt rates. Eric Betz, Discover Magazine, "East Antarctica's Sleeping Giant Awakes," 17 Aug. 2018 Separate subway tile and beadboard backsplashes also add to the farmhouse vibe, which comes full circle with the inclusion of white cabinets and galvanized pendant lights. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Tamera Mowry's Napa Valley Home Has the Most Amazing Farmhouse Kitchen," 13 July 2018

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

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First Known Use of galvanize

1802, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for galvanize

borrowed from French galvaniser, from Luigi galvani (who conducted pioneering experiments in bioelectricity) + -iser -ize

Note: See note at galvanism.

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Statistics for galvanize

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for galvanize

The first known use of galvanize was in 1802

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More Definitions for galvanize



English Language Learners Definition of galvanize

: to cause (people) to become so excited or concerned about an issue, idea, etc., that they want to do something about it

: to cause (a force that is capable of causing change) to become active

: to cover (steel or iron) with a layer of zinc to prevent it from rusting


gal·​va·​nize | \ˈgal-və-ˌnīz \
galvanized; galvanizing

Kids Definition of galvanize

1 : to excite about something so that action is taken Increasing litter galvanized children to clean up the park.

2 : to coat with zinc for protection The steel was galvanized to prevent it from rusting.


transitive verb
variants: or British galvanise \ˈgal-​və-​ˌnīz \
galvanized or British galvanised; galvanizing or British galvanising

Medical Definition of galvanize 

: to subject to the action of an electric current especially for the purpose of stimulating physiologically galvanize a muscle

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Comments on galvanize

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


a knickknack or trinket

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