The word wave has many different meanings, but they all have to do with an undulating motion or shape. A wave that washes up on a beach has the same kind of back-and-forth movement as a crowd of baseball fans doing "the wave" in the stands.

Use the verb wave to describe a greeting that includes a hand motion, from the enthusiastic flapping wave of a little kid meeting his dad at the airport to the prim wave of a Queen acknowledging her subjects. In physics, when you talk about a sound wave, there is a similar kind of rise and fall. Two Old English root words of wave are wæfre, "wavering or restless," and wagian, "to move to and fro."

Primary Meanings of wave

(physics) a movement up and down or back and forth
move or swing back and forth
a hairdo that creates undulations in the hair
set waves in
a movement like that of a sudden occurrence or increase in a specified phenomenon
Full Definitions of wave

n (physics) a movement up and down or back and forth

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gravitation wave, gravity wave
(physics) a wave that is hypothesized to propagate gravity and to travel at the speed of light
sine wave
a wave whose waveform resembles a sine curve
oscillation, vibration
(physics) a regular periodic variation in value about a mean
a wave motion
a wave on the surface of a lake or landlocked bay; caused by atmospheric or seismic disturbances
standing wave, stationary wave
a wave (as a sound wave in a chamber or an electromagnetic wave in a transmission line) in which the ratio of its instantaneous amplitude at one point to that at any other point does not vary with time
traveling wave, travelling wave
a wave in which the medium moves in the direction of propagation of the wave
acoustic wave, sound wave
(acoustics) a wave that transmits sound
wave form, wave shape, waveform
the shape of a wave illustrated graphically by plotting the values of the period quantity against time
blast wave, shock wave
a region of high pressure travelling through a gas at a high velocity
impulse, pulsation, pulse, pulsing
(electronics) a sharp transient wave in the normal electrical state (or a series of such transients)
flap, flapping, flutter, fluttering
the motion made by flapping up and down
(electronics) an oscillation of small amplitude imposed on top of a steady value
solitary wave, soliton, soliton wave
(physics) a quantum of energy or quasiparticle that can be propagated as a traveling wave in nonlinear systems and is neither preceded nor followed by another such disturbance; does not obey the superposition principle and does not dissipate
air wave
a sound wave that is transmitted via air
(physics) a short-lived oscillation in a system caused by a sudden change of voltage or current or load
sonic boom
an explosive sound caused by the shock wave of an airplane traveling faster than the speed of sound
a single pulsation of an oscillation produced by adding two waves of different frequencies; has a frequency equal to the difference between the two oscillations
a vibration of large amplitude produced by a relatively small vibration near the same frequency of vibration as the natural frequency of the resonating system
sympathetic vibration
(physics) vibration produced by resonance
Type of:
motion, movement
a natural event that involves a change in the position or location of something

n an undulating curve

sine curve, sinusoid
the curve of y=sin x
Type of:
curve, curved shape
the trace of a point whose direction of motion changes

n one of a series of ridges that moves across the surface of a liquid (especially across a large body of water)

moving ridge
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breaker, breakers, surf
waves breaking on the shore
backwash, wake
the wave that spreads behind a boat as it moves forward
the movement or sound of water
riffle, ripple, rippling, wavelet
a small wave on the surface of a liquid
crestless wave, swell
the undulating movement of the surface of the open sea
lift, rise
a wave that lifts the surface of the water or ground
billow, surge
a large sea wave
tidal wave
a wave resulting from the periodic flow of the tides that is caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon and sun
tidal wave
an unusual (and often destructive) rise of water along the seashore caused by a storm or a combination of wind and high tide
a cataclysm resulting from a destructive sea wave caused by an earthquake or volcanic eruption
roll, roller, rolling wave
a long heavy sea wave as it advances towards the shore
a long curling sea wave
white horse, whitecap
a wave that is blown by the wind so its crest is broken and appears white
ground swell, heavy swell
a broad and deep undulation of the ocean
Type of:
motion, movement
a natural event that involves a change in the position or location of something

n the act of signaling by a movement of the hand

wafture, waving
brandish, flourish
the act of waving
Type of:
gesture, motion
the use of movements (especially of the hands) to communicate familiar or prearranged signals

v move or swing back and forth

“She waved her gun”
brandish, flourish
send a signal by waving a flag or a light according to a certain code
Type of:
displace, move
cause to move or shift into a new position or place, both in a concrete and in an abstract sense

v move in a wavy pattern or with a rising and falling motion

flap, roll, undulate
flap when the wind is blowing equally on both sides
Type of:
move so as to change position, perform a nontranslational motion

v signal with the hands or nod

“She waved to her friends”
“He waved his hand hospitably”
Type of:
gesticulate, gesture, motion
show, express or direct through movement

n a hairdo that creates undulations in the hair

finger wave
a wave made with the fingers
perm, permanent, permanent wave
a series of waves in the hair made by applying heat and chemicals
Type of:
coif, coiffure, hair style, hairdo, hairstyle
the arrangement of the hair (especially a woman's hair)

v set waves in

“she asked the hairdresser to wave her hair”
make a marcel in a woman's hair
gauffer, goffer
make wavy with a heated goffering iron
give a permanent wave to
Type of:
arrange, coif, coiffe, coiffure, do, dress, set
arrange attractively

v twist or roll into coils or ringlets

crape, crimp, frizz, frizzle, kink, kink up
curl tightly
Type of:
turn in the opposite direction

n a movement like that of a sudden occurrence or increase in a specified phenomenon

“a wave of settlers”
“troops advancing in waves
Type of:
motility, motion, move, movement
a change of position that does not entail a change of location

n something that rises rapidly

“a wave of emotion swept over him”
“there was a sudden wave of buying before the market closed”
“a wave of conservatism in the country led by the hard right”
Type of:
a growth in strength or number or importance

n a persistent and widespread unusual weather condition (especially of unusual temperatures)

“a heat wave
cold wave
a wave of unusually cold weather
heat wave
a wave of unusually hot weather
Type of:
atmospheric condition, conditions, weather, weather condition
the atmospheric conditions that comprise the state of the atmosphere in terms of temperature and wind and clouds and precipitation

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