verb na·tion·al·ize \ ˈnash-nə-ˌlīz , ˈna-shə-nə-ˌlīz \
|Updated on: 16 Aug 2018

Definition of nationalize

nationalized; nationalizing
1 : to give a national character to
2 : to invest control or ownership of in the national government


play \ˌnash-nə-lə-ˈzā-shən, ˌna-shə-nə-lə-\ noun


play \ˈnash-nə-ˌlī-zər, ˌna-shə-nə-ˌlī-zər\ noun

Examples of nationalize in a Sentence

  1. The government nationalized the health-care system in the mid-1950s.

  2. nationalizing the country's oil supply

Recent Examples of nationalize from the Web

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

First Known Use of nationalize


in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Financial Definition of NATIONALIZE


What It Is

Nationalization occurs when a country's government seizes the assets of corporations or resources without paying for those assets.

How It Works

Let's say Country XYZ elects John Doe. A year before he is due for re-election, John Doe dissolves the ineffective representative houses of government and issues an executive order abolishing presidential term limits. In this way, he is able to assume a dictatorial form of leadership.

Doe then decides that the people of Country XYZ should not have to pay for food. Accordingly, he nationalizes the food manufacturing companies, including Kraft. In doing so, he seizes Kraft's factories, cash accounts, manufacturing equipment and other assets but does not provide compensation to Kraft's investors for those assets. He then appoints a person to run and manage the company on behalf of the government.

The Gold Reserve Act nationalized gold and fixed its price. The Gold Reserve Act was notable because in an attempt to end the Great Depression, it fixed the value of the U.S. Treasury’s gold holdings. By legislating that $1 was worth 15.715 grains of gold, a troy ounce of gold could buy $35 rather than $20.67. By devaluing the dollar this way, the value of the Treasury’s gold increased by $2.81 billion.

After seizing everybody’s gold, the Gold Reserve Act allowed the Treasury to then set the price of gold at $35. The Treasury used the profits to create an Exchange Stabilization Fund, which (even today) allows it to trade foreign currency in order to stabilize the exchange value of U.S. currency without affecting domestic money supply or requiring Congressional approval

Why It Matters

Nationalization is a controversial action, and most investors in nationalized companies will say that it is basically theft. However, when governments nationalize industries or companies, they usually do so in an attempt to control prices for the products those industries produce, are interested in "redistributing wealth," or control the expenses associated with production in that industry. It is most common in developing economies and is sometimes a way to grab power.

NATIONALIZE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of nationalize for English Language Learners

  • : to cause (something) to be under the control of a national government

NATIONALIZE Defined for Kids


verb na·tion·al·ize \ ˈna-shə-nə-ˌlīz \

Definition of nationalize for Students

nationalized; nationalizing
: to place under government control

Law Dictionary


transitive verb na·tion·al·ize \ ˈna-shə-nə-ˌlīz \

legal Definition of nationalize

nationalized; nationalizing
: to invest control or ownership of in the national government

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excessive admiration or flattery

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