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

After a nearly yearlong social-media hiatus, polarizing rap star Kanye West re-emerged on Twitter last month. Jason Whitlock, WSJ, "Kanye Had One of the Best Tweets of All Time," 7 May 2018 The consequences of constantly attacking those on the other side only polarize us and create further division in our political system. Shawn R. Beals, Courant Community, "Middletown Republicans Outraged After Drew Calls Chair Racist In Facebook Post," 13 July 2018 American politics might be polarized and divided with two sides bitterly angry at each other. Jennie Neufeld, Vox, "#SecondCivilWar: how a wild conspiracy theory became a July 4th Twitter meme," 5 July 2018 The aerodynamic, lightweight shapes are typically polarized as well as polarizing. Madeline Fass, Vogue, "No More Tiny Sunglasses: Why Sporty Shades Are Summer’s Coolest Look," 27 June 2018 The political world is totally polarized and toxic. Susan Dunne, courant.com, "Artists #UNLOAD In Gun Exhibit At Fairfield University," 26 June 2018 Yet with at least $35 million at issue, reputations at risk and both sides having staked out public positions that are highly polarized, middle ground might be elusive. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Pitino and ULAA should opt for settlement rather than drawn-out court battle | Tim Sullivan," 10 Jan. 2018 The fashion industry can be a cynical place, but the image of these two polarizing figures hugging and crying on a rainbow runway is enough to cut through all the posturing. Emilia Petrarca, The Cut, "Hugging Is the Coolest Thing You Can Do Right Now," 21 June 2018 Who will nab Trae Young, arguably the post polarizing player headed into the league? Michael Singer, USA TODAY, "2018 NBA draft tracker: Pick-by-pick analysis, grades for each selection," 21 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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Statistics for polarize

Last Updated

19 Sep 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

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