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 If different parties control different branches of government, and the parties are polarized, instead of compromise the legislative process breaks down. Ryan Cooper, TheWeek, "American democracy is dying," 7 Feb. 2020 There are plenty of opportunities for us in the U.S. First of all, the U.S. media landscape is super polarized. Georg Szalai, The Hollywood Reporter, "Brut. CEO on the "Super-Polarized" U.S. Media Landscape, Wanting to Be the Netflix of News," 31 Oct. 2019 Democrats and some media members have accused Trump of polarizing the country and eroding civil discourse. Dominick Mastrangelo, Washington Examiner, "'Disgusting': Ivanka Trump tears into CNN panel for mocking President Trump supporters," 28 Jan. 2020 Discontent in Latin America Latin American societies have become increasingly polarized in recent years. Ian Bremmer, Time, "The Top 10 Geopolitical Risks for the World in 2020," 6 Jan. 2020 Without Harden’s polarizing dominance, the Rockets — one of the Western Conference’s best teams — had to grapple with an ugly loss. Connor Letourneau, Houston Chronicle, "Rockets upended by shorthanded Warriors on Christmas," 25 Dec. 2019 Since 2016, tribal party loyalty has given way to Brexit identities that have been blamed for polarizing the public and straining democratic institutions. Simon Montlake, The Christian Science Monitor, "As UK sets poll date, a voter’s dilemma: Vote on party, or vote on Brexit?," 30 Oct. 2019 Warren’s statement continued to polarize tensions between the candidates and, more importantly, between the candidates’ supporters, with Sanders partisans quickly mobilizing hashtags in response. Graeme Mcmillan, Wired, "While You Were Offline: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren's Big Debate Dust-Up," 19 Jan. 2020 Pressing for more social programs stands to further polarize a country divided. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Dem candidates should choose platform issues carefully; Russia connections not unique to current president (8/1/19)," 1 Aug. 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

21 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Polarize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polarize. Accessed 22 Feb. 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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