Please consider below meaning of dictionary

Galvanize: shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action

What is the right usage of this word? Please consider below sentences

A sudden sound in the doorway galvanized her.
He was galvanized to see a column of smoke.

Is this right usage? or do I need to use differently?

I have been observed that startle also perfectly suits here? Does it always acceptable to replace startle with galvanize?

  • The typical phrase is galvanized into (doing something) suggesting that there's more than startling, with something to follow, such as an action. This is already clear from the definition the OP has quoted. – Kris Dec 21 '12 at 10:29

Galvanize is more about being spurred to action. That drive can take many forms- startled, surprised, horrified, excited, and more - but it's the action that's important. So, taking your two examples, you would need to add something more to make galvanize fit.

A sudden sound in the doorway galvanized her into diving for cover.

He was galvanized into running for the fire extinguisher when he saw the column of smoke.

The examples are a little contrived/awkward, but hopefully illustrate the point.

You can use galvanized without expressly stating the action, but there has to be sufficient context for the reader to understand just what they were galvanized into doing.

The attack on 9/11 galvanized the nation.

Startled is just being startled, with or without any resulting action, so that fits just fine into both of your examples.

| improve this answer | |
  • In the following examples, action is suggested by the context: "Commercial relations will be galvanized by the Free Trade Agreement" or "Galvanized by its first place, he is now focusing on the next olympics" – Graffito Oct 29 '15 at 12:07

The origin of the word galvanize lies in the work of Luigi Galvani who demonstrated that the application of electricity to a muscle would cause movement. So to be galvanized is much more than to be surprised or startled, it is to respond to the stimulus.

Unless there is an action involved, your subject has not been galvanized.

(Be aware also that the alternative industrial meaning -- being coated with zinc -- is not relevant here.)

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    "I awoke to discover that Dr McVillian was coating me with zinc; I was immediately galvanised into action." – CPLB Aug 30 '13 at 8:56

Galvanised has been misused by the modern media as meaning "coherent strength". I think it was originally misused by persons believing it sounded a perfect match to their perceived meaning, especially when referring to successful sports teams. Its only true meaning is steel that has a protective rust proof coating of zinc.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Actually, "galvanic action" is about more than just plating steel. It is the basis of all conventional batteries, so "galvanize" can be taken (validly) to mean "electrify". – Hot Licks Oct 29 '15 at 12:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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