[ poh-ler-uh-zey-shuhn ]
See synonyms for polarization on Thesaurus.com
  1. a sharp division, as of a population or group, into opposing factions.

  2. Optics. a state, or the production of a state, in which rays of light or similar radiation exhibit different properties in different directions.: Compare circular polarization, elliptical polarization, plane polarization.

  1. Electricity.

    • the deposit of gases, produced during electrolysis, on the electrodes of a cell, increasing the resistance of the cell.

    • a vector quantity indicating the electric dipole moment per unit of volume of a dielectric.

    • the induction of polarity in a ferromagnetic substance.

  2. the production or acquisition of polarity.

Origin of polarization

First recorded in 1805–15; polarize + -ation

Other words from polarization

  • de·po·lar·i·za·tion, noun
  • re·po·lar·i·za·tion, noun

Words Nearby polarization

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use polarization in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for polarization



/ (ˌpəʊləraɪˈzeɪʃən) /

  1. the condition of having or giving polarity

  2. physics the process or phenomenon in which the waves of light or other electromagnetic radiation are restricted to certain directions of vibration, usually specified in terms of the electric field vector

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Scientific definitions for polarization


[ pō′lər-ĭ-zāshən ]

  1. A condition in which transverse waves vibrate consistently in a single plane, or along a circle or ellipse. Electromagnetic radiation such as light is composed of transverse waves and can be polarized. Certain kinds of light filters, including sunglasses that reduce glare, work by filtering out light that is polarized in one direction.

  2. The displacement of positive and negative electric charge to opposite ends of a nuclear, atomic, molecular, or chemical system, especially by subjection to an electric field. Atoms and molecules have some inherent polarization.

  1. An increased resistance to the flow of current in a voltaic cell, caused by chemical reactions at the electrodes. Polarization results in a reduction of the electric potential across the voltaic cell.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for polarization (1 of 2)


In politics, the grouping of opinions around two extremes: “As the debate continued, the union members were polarized into warring factions.”


The direction in which the electrical field of an electromagnetic wave points.

Notes for polarization

Reflected light, such as the light that produces glare on a sunny day, is polarized so that the electrical field is parallel to the ground. Some sunglasses are designed to take advantage of this property by blocking out that particular polarization while allowing other light to come through.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.