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

The Trump strategy was to continue polarizing the electorate along identity lines and to hope for a repeat of 2016. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "The 9 thinkers who made sense of 2018’s chaos," 27 Dec. 2018 What comes across is the utter cynicism involved of the people who are helping to polarize the country. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Facebook political ad tools are ripe for trolling," 1 Nov. 2018 Knightley's essay is sure to polarize opinion, especially as not everyone experiences childbirth and pregnancy in the same way. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Keira Knightley Criticizes Kate Middleton’s Perfect Post-Baby Body Appearance," 6 Oct. 2018 And that's going to further polarize the debate over social media and may come back and hurt these companies, who even now, Republican congressional members are gunning for them. Fox News, "Trump administration steps up sanctions on Iran, Russia," 12 Aug. 2018 Political discourse within the U.S. has become increasingly polarized and filled with disinformation, much of it created by partisans, Mr. Watts said. Robert Mcmillan, WSJ, "Russian Hackers Largely Skipped the Midterms, and No One Really Knows Why," 12 Nov. 2018 Mitchell poised to face scrutiny as the battle surrounding the President's Supreme Court nominee becomes increasingly polarized. Fox News, "Coons: Kavanaugh hearing should be paused for investigation," 27 Sep. 2018 Use a circular polarized antenna to connect your goggles to the transmitter. Trevor Bauer, Popular Mechanics, "How To Build Your Own Drone," 23 Aug. 2018 Few pieces of legislation have polarized Europe this much in recent years. James Vincent, The Verge, "Everything you need to know about Europe’s new copyright directive," 13 Sep. 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

10 Jan 2019

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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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

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marked by shyness and lack of polish

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