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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from polarize

polarizability \ ˌpō-​lə-​ˌrī-​zə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce polarize (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 These negative charges polarize the bits, making one side of the paper, Styrofoam, rice or confetti positive and the other side negative, attracting the positive charges to the tops of the bits and pushing the negative charges away, to the bottoms. Exploratorium, Scientific American, "Dance with Your Sweater," 19 Feb. 2015 Herrera Beutler also said that her vote would perhaps polarize Republican voters in her state and that her seat could be in question, which some local Republican officials echoed. Emma Colton, Washington Examiner, "GOP representative who voted for Trump impeachment faces backlash and possible primary challenges," 18 Jan. 2021 Congress may see the consequences of playing games that polarize us and start working together for all Americans. Star Tribune, "Readers Write: American democracy, Trump's potential self-pardon," 8 Jan. 2021 There is no doubt that the Sussexes continue to polarize opinion, with people often having strong views either way. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, "How Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Have Found Happiness Despite a Challenging and Turbulent Year," 22 Dec. 2020 It is used to polarize in a way that is on the political left, something that is very important to the political left, and pits them against the president. CBS News, "Former FBI special agent analyzes election threat posed by Russia, China and Iran," 28 Oct. 2020 Tillis is calculating that the president will win North Carolina again, and that the court fight will somehow polarize the electorate further, in a way that benefits the Republicans — and him. Jonathan Martin New York Times, Star Tribune, "North Carolina plays a crucial role in presidential race, battle for Senate control," 22 Sep. 2020 Actors in Hollywood are often advised to avoid roles that might polarize audiences and colleagues in the entertainment industry. John Loftus, National Review, "The Convictions of Jim Caviezel," 15 Sep. 2020 Leahy said in June that his presidency could jeopardize U.S. support for the bank and warned that Claver-Carone’s adversarial relationship with the governments of Venezuela and Cuba could polarize the IDB. Eric Martin, Bloomberg.com, "Trump’s Candidate to Lead Latin America Development Bank," 12 Sep. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about polarize

Time Traveler for polarize

Time Traveler

The first known use of polarize was in 1811

See more words from the same year

Statistics for polarize

Last Updated

3 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Polarize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polarize. Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce polarize (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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!