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

Naming ships after politicians—some still living—has become more politically fraught as U.S politics has increasingly polarized. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Navy Is Buying Two Carriers at Once for a Big Discount," 4 Feb. 2019 Axios American politics has grown more polarized over time. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Donald Trump is actually a very unpopular president," 23 July 2018 What is happening could be an expression of a deep sensitivity to a dark chapter of the city’s history that’s bubbling up as the rest of the country, too, becomes more politically polarized. Washington Post, "Violent protests again draw attention to Portland, Oregon," 10 June 2018 What is happening could be an expression of a deep sensitivity to a dark chapter of the city's history that's bubbling up as the rest of the country, too, becomes more politically polarized. Fox News, "Violent skirmishes between Antifa, right-wing activists draw national attention to Portland, Oregon," 9 June 2018 Theresa May’s leadership is uncertain, and the future of the United Kingdom is in question, leaving its population polarized. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Queen Elizabeth Just Made a Powerful Statement for a Troubled Time," 25 Jan. 2019 Several studied the fundamental identity divisions further polarizing and dividing the United States, while another focused specifically on the dark sides of social media’s influence on politics. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "The 9 thinkers who made sense of 2018’s chaos," 27 Dec. 2018 Is that now a vestige of a bygone era, because things are so brutally partisan polarized? Fox News, "Bill Bennett on McCain, warts and all," 27 Aug. 2018 Long before the net, media played a key role in polarizing the nation into red versus blue, black versus white, 99 percent versus 1 percent. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Twitter finally draws a line on extremism," 14 Aug. 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

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 affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

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