I'm looking for a word to describe a person that has contrasting opinions about them and their opinions are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

The words controversial and dividing are not suitable.


Kyle could not fathom what people think of him, as he either was very popular with loads of friends who could get stuff for free, or very unpopular with no one wanting to talk to him as he was classed as boring or a sociopath. The differing love and hate he received depending on the environment, was at polar extremeties.

Alex on Monday was gossiped about in a good way by several people boosting her status by becoming one of the few people worth talking about positively, but she was shunned by one of her classes.

Sheridan gave a look, and Kayleigh didn't know whether to hug him or slap him. She could never decipher his true intentions. He was _______


4 Answers 4


That person polarizes opinions. A polarizing person. Although it's rare according to ngram.

to cause people to adopt extreme opposing positions" ⇒ ■ to polarize opinion"

  • "Polarizing figure" is the first thing that comes to mind, although ngrams says it's less popular than "controversial personality".
    – nollidge
    Dec 15, 2015 at 18:05

"Polarising" (British English) or "polarizing" (US English) could be what you're looking for.

From Merriam-Webster's definition of polarize

: to cause (people, opinions, etc.) to separate into opposing groups


From Google Books...

Harry Challenor was a 'Marmite' character: either loved or loathed.

From Oxford Dictionaries online...

Marmite Used in reference to something that tends to arouse strongly positive or negative reactions rather than indifference:
the styling is ‘Marmite’ — some hate it, many love it
a proper Marmite sitcom, which people are either utterly loving or totally despising

I don't know if this usage would be understood in Australia, where I think they call this "polarising" yeast spread Vegemite.

  • I'd prefer not to use the word marmite because it doesn't convey the contrasting extremity of the opinions. If I say "I'm like marmite people either love or or hate me" it doesn't make the person any more unique than anyone else.
    – desbest
    Dec 15, 2015 at 17:49
  • 1
    @desbest: I'm afraid I don't understand your point. The very reason this usage has been so enthusiastically adopted is because it's a simple metaphor for "contrasting extremity of the opinions" that doesn't require speakers and audience to know obscure "scientific" terms like polarising. Dec 15, 2015 at 17:54
  • People don't love or hate marmite to the same extent they love or hate a person.
    – desbest
    Dec 15, 2015 at 17:57
  • 1
    @desbest: Are you actually familiar with the usage? Or indeed the spread itself? Not that it matters whether you personally don't have such strong opinions about the taste of Marmite as you do about someone like the odious Donald Trump, for example. The fact of the matter is that (for BrE speakers, at least), the expression is predicated on the premise that everyone has very, very extreme views about Marmite. Dec 15, 2015 at 18:03
  • Yes to both questions. You don't understand me. I'm from Britain so I am familiar with how the word marmite is used from a cultural standpoint. Certain adjectives mean practically the same thing, but are more extreme than others, such as big, large and humungous. All three words describe a big size, but each word is more (or less) extreme than the other. The same applies to the word marmite. The word marmite is a weak word. If someone says that they are like marmite, the listener will not infer from that statement that they polarise opinion and make others cry or obsessed with them.
    – desbest
    Dec 15, 2015 at 18:08

Okay, I know I'm like seven years late to this, but whatever. Maybe you're looking for the word "ambivalence"? Ambivalence means, according to my best friend, Google.com, a "state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone"

  • "He was ambivalence" This doesn't work; we don't describe people as such. "Ambivalent" is used that way but means something completely different.
    – Laurel
    Apr 9, 2023 at 0:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.