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From French galvaniser, from galvanisme, after Italian physiologist Luigi Aloisio Galvani (1737–1798).



galvanize (third-person singular simple present galvanizes, present participle galvanizing, simple past and past participle galvanized)

  1. (transitive, chiefly Canada, US, chemistry) To coat with a thin layer of metal by electrochemical means; to electroplate.
  2. (transitive, chiefly Canada, US) To coat with rust-resistant zinc.
  3. (transitive, chiefly Canada, US) To shock or stimulate into sudden activity (as if with an electric shock)
    The girl’s picture, along with an audio file of crying children that was given to reporters, helped galvanize public opinion against the administration’s policy.
    Republicans are hoping a proposed gas-tax repeal and anger over illegal immigration will galvanize their voters.
  4. (transitive, archaic) To electrify.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay
      The agitations resembled the grinnings and writhings of a galvanized corpse, not the struggles of an athletic man.
  5. (transitive, dated, American Civil War) To switch sides between Union and Confederate.
    • 1998, Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic, 1st Vintage Departures edition, Vintage Books, →ISBN, page 10:
      Reenactors called this “galvanizing,” the Civil War term for soldiers who switched sides during the conflict.


  • (to coat with metal): zinc (rare)
  • (to shock or stimulate): startle

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