1811, from Fr. polariser, coined by Fr. physicist Étienne-Louis Malus (1775-1812) as a term in optics. Transf. sense of "to accentuate a division in a group or system" is first recorded 1949 in Arthur Koestler.
To separate or accumulate positive and negative electric charges in two distinct regions. Polarized objects have an electric dipole moment and will undergo torque when placed in an external electric field.
To magnetize a substance so that it has the properties of a magnetic dipole, such as having a north and south pole.
To cause the electrical and magnetic fields associated with electromagnetic waves, especially light, to vibrate in a particular direction or path. The transverse electric and magnetic waves always vibrate at right angles to each other, but in ordinary unpolarized light sources, the direction of polarization of each wave is randomly distributed. Light can be polarized by reflection, and by passing through certain materials. See more at polarization.