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

Budde said the question often highlights how the church, like much of the country, is polarized on social issues. Elvia Malagón, chicagotribune.com, "Catholic bishop in Springfield: No communion for Madigan, Cullerton for supporting 'abominable' Illinois abortion rights bill," 6 June 2019 Hong Kong has long been a safe harbor for polarizing political figures, from Sun Yat-Sen and his revolutionaries to Vietnam’s communist leader Ho Chi Minh to American whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Laignee Barron / Hong Kong, Time, "30 Years Later, Hong Kong Still Harbors the Spirit of Tiananmen," 4 June 2019 Since the general election, voters seem to be more energized — and polarized, Greene said. Lauren Caruba, ExpressNews.com, "Candidates in San Antonio City Council District 6 runoff say voters more energized, polarized," 4 June 2019 This will be Lady Gaga's first solo album since 2016's Joanne, which polarized fans with its acoustic, stripped-down sound—a far cry from the splashy, electro-pop hits that made her a household name. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Lady Gaga's New Album: Everything We Know So Far," 13 Mar. 2019 Unfortunately, his grunge brethren Alice in Chains would see their winless streak at the Grammys extended, as the hard rockers were bested by polarizing Led Zeppelin imitators Greta Van Fleet for best rock album. Michael Rietmulder, The Seattle Times, "Brandi Carlile wins 3 Grammys, gives stunning performance on music’s biggest stage," 11 Feb. 2019 Baker’s lenses are all polarized (which protects your vision, reduces the need to squint, and cuts down on horizontal glare) and have UV400 protection. Emily Farra, Vogue, "This Brand Is Shaking Up the Eyewear Market With Luxe, Elegant Sunglasses for $110," 30 Apr. 2019 Election campaigning was highly polarized, with Erdogan and other officials using hostile rhetoric toward opposition candidates. Zeynep Bilginsoy, The Seattle Times, "Turkey’s ruling party leads local elections but loses Ankara," 31 Mar. 2019 Baker’s support is roughly even across the partisan spectrum, whereas Warren’s support, per the survey, is much more polarized. James Pindell, BostonGlobe.com, "Transgender rights question could be closest vote in Mass. this fall, poll finds," 14 June 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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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 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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More from Merriam-Webster on polarize

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with polarize

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for polarize

Spanish Central: Translation of polarize

Nglish: Translation of polarize for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of polarize for Arabic Speakers

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