po·​lar·​ize | \ ˈpō-lə-ˌrīz How to pronounce polarize (audio) \
polarized; polarizing

Definition of polarize

transitive verb

1 : to cause to vibrate in a definite pattern polarize light waves
2 : to give physical polarity to
3 : to break up into opposing factions or groupings a campaign that polarized the electorate
4 : concentrate sense 1 recreate a cohesive rock community by polarizing … an amorphous, fragmented audience— Ellen Willis

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Other Words from polarize

polarizability \ ˌpō-​lə-​ˌrī-​zə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce polarizability (audio) \ noun

Examples of polarize in a Sentence

The war has polarized the nation. The current debate polarizes along lines of class and race.
Recent Examples on the Web But Westworld is anything but straightforward, a fact that leaves its audience polarized. Tyler Coates, Wired, "Westworld’s Third Season Is a Good but Exhausting Reboot," 13 Mar. 2020 So, too, do NBA draft projections that have grown more polarized as the season progresses. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Jordan Nwora nears his Louisville basketball exit as a star, and a scapegoat," 28 Feb. 2020 And my campaign is about how to galvanize and not polarize that majority. NBC News, "Meet the Press - February 9, 2020," 9 Feb. 2020 Times and perceptions do change — and the approach to policing is as polarized as ever. Clarence Page, chicagotribune.com, "Column: ‘Respect’ in policing is a two-way street, Attorney General Barr," 6 Dec. 2019 Drummond's value seems to be polarizing not just among fans but around the NBA. Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Pistons' Andre Drummond linked to Charlotte Hornets in NBA trade rumors," 22 Nov. 2019 The frames feel sturdy without being overly heavy, and the lenses — often polarized — are clear. Brittany Meiling, San Diego Union-Tribune, "How this 31-year-old Pacific Beach surfer makes millions selling sunglasses," 14 Oct. 2019 Burioni's broadsides polarize and oversimplify a complicated discussion, adds Fabio Turone, a science writer and director of the Center for Ethics in Science and Journalism. Douglas Starr, Science | AAAS, "This Italian scientist has become a celebrity by fighting vaccine skeptics," 2 Jan. 2020 The decision to use AI is polarizing in the classical musical community, but Beethoven’s work in particular has been the subject of a lot of technological attention for decades. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Beethoven Never Finished His Last Symphony. Can Robots Complete the Job?," 18 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'polarize.' 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 polarize

1811, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for polarize

French polariser, from New Latin polaris polar

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Time Traveler for polarize

Time Traveler

The first known use of polarize was in 1811

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Statistics for polarize

Last Updated

20 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Polarize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polarize. Accessed 3 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for polarize


How to pronounce polarize (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of polarize

: to cause (people, opinions, etc.) to separate into opposing groups
physics : to cause (something, such as light waves) to vibrate in a particular pattern
physics : to cause (something) to have positive and negative charges : to give polarity to (something)


variants: also British polarise \ ˈpō-​lə-​ˌrīz How to pronounce polarise (audio) \
polarized also British polarised; polarizing also British polarising

Medical Definition of polarize

transitive verb

1 : to cause (as light waves) to vibrate in a definite pattern
2 : to give physical polarity to

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