The ease of distortion of the electron cloud of a molecular entity by an electric field (such as that due to the proximity of a charged reagent). It is experimentally measured as the ratio of induced dipole moment() to the field which induces it:
The units of are . In ordinary usage the term refers to the 'mean polarizability', i.e., the average over three rectilinear axes of the molecule. Polarizabilities in different directions (e.g. along the bond in Cl2 , called 'longitudinal polarizability', and in the direction perpendicular to the bond, called 'transverse polarizability') can be distinguished, at least in principle. Polarizability along the bond joining a substituent to the rest of the molecule is seen in certain modern theoretical approaches as a factor influencing chemical reactivity, etc., and parametrization thereof has been proposed.
See also: electric polarizability
PAC, 1994, 66, 1077 (Glossary of terms used in physical organic chemistry (IUPAC Recommendations 1994)) on page 1151