po·​lar·​ize | \ˈpō-lə-ˌrīz \
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 \ 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

Apparently washer/dryers are a polarizing topic in online-review land. Jourdan Fairchild, House Beautiful, "The $400 Makeover That Actually Makes Me Look Forward To Doing Laundry," 6 Oct. 2018 Ticino’s quirkiest offering is Bianco di Merlot, a white made from red grapes that’s light, crisp, and virtually colorless—be warned, though, as its fruity taste is polarizing. Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Swiss Wine Vacation We All Need to Take," 11 Sep. 2018 And the easiest way to accomplished that is to polarize the electorate along class lines. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Ocasio-Cortez Proved That ‘Identity Politics’ Is an Asset For Berniecrats," 27 June 2018 Riley’s film is guaranteed to polarize critics, and that’s just fine. Alessandra Codinha, Vogue, "Lakeith Stanfield Thinks We Should All Probably Take a Break From the Internet," 27 June 2018 Lankford, who has moved to spearhead a short-term congressional fix on the family separation issue, acknowledged that Trump’s rhetoric on immigration has been polarizing. Laura King, latimes.com, "Administration says it has a plan to reunite immigrant families; Democrats are skeptical," 25 June 2018 Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season, a move that began to polarize opinion about a once-universally beloved star. K.c. Johnson, chicagotribune.com, "20 years since dissolution of the dynasty, Bulls still a long way from the top," 10 June 2018 Jayant Chaudhary, a regional leader belonging to opposition Rashtriya Lok Dal, or National People's Party, said the BJP's attempt to polarize the majority Hindu support in its favor has been rejected by the people. Fox News, "India's Hindu nationalist party suffers defeat at polls," 31 May 2018 Firearms have polarized Americans more than ever, like so many other issues in the current red-blue political climate. Phil Diehl, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Protesters to return with weekend gun show," 13 July 2018

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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Statistics for polarize

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for polarize

The first known use of polarize was in 1811

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More Definitions for polarize



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 \
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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Comments on polarize

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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