gal·​va·​nize | \ ˈgal-və-ˌnīz How to pronounce galvanize (audio) \
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 How to pronounce galvanization (audio) \ noun
galvanizer \ ˈgal-​və-​ˌnī-​zər How to pronounce galvanizer (audio) \ 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 The wildfire disaster, which is likely to continue throughout the Southern Hemisphere summer, has galvanized calls for more global action on climate change. Rod Mcguirk, USA TODAY, "Storms bring relief and danger to Australian amid wildfires," 8 Jan. 2020 However, ferocious and increasingly violent pro-democracy protests in the freewheeling former British colony have galvanized opposition to any such arrangement. Time, "Here's What's at Stake in Taiwan's Presidential Election," 6 Jan. 2020 The issue has galvanized national attention, with many legislators loath to fund universities that aren't preparing young people for the workforce. Susan Svrluga, Anchorage Daily News, "Is college worth it? A study measures return on investment - and gets some surprising results.," 14 Nov. 2019 The deaths have galvanized cyclists, who are planning a week of protest and mourning. Andrew Kenney, The Denver Post, "“Stop killing us”: After a deadly month, Denver cyclists will swarm streets," 30 July 2019 The incidents have galvanized a public that feels neglected and exploited by political and economic elites, and one that has endured great suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a seemingly unresolvable debt crisis. Zeeshan Aleem, Vox, "Puerto Rico’s week of massive protests, explained," 20 July 2019 The Americans’ very public fight with their federation has galvanized a global movement for more funding and support for women’s soccer, the fruits of which were clear in France. Kevin Baxter,, "What’s next for the U.S. women’s team after its World Cup win?," 8 July 2019 Her keen intuition, perspective, and passion for music have galvanized the careers of countless superstars. Tatiana Cirisano, Billboard, "Republic Records Ups Wendy Goldstein to President, West Coast Creative: Exclusive," 26 June 2019 Don’t let Kelly’s confusing postgame pretzel logic Saturday about naysayers, in which his team purportedly simultaneously ignored them and was galvanized by them, fool you. Eric Hansen, Indianapolis Star, "Analysis: Will Brian Kelly's next step match up with his growing aspirations for Notre Dame?," 30 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for galvanize

Time Traveler

The first known use of galvanize was in 1802

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Last Updated

19 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Galvanize.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for galvanize


How to pronounce galvanize (audio)

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


gal·​va·​nize | \ ˈgal-və-ˌnīz How to pronounce galvanize (audio) \
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 How to pronounce galvanise (audio) \
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).


to insert between existing elements

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