Definition of wave in English:

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Pronunciation: /wāv/


1 [no object] Move one’s hand to and fro in greeting or as a signal: he waved to me from the train
More example sentences
  • I saw her mom's face looking from the window and I waved, but she disappeared behind the curtain.
  • I waved out the window to my friends, dreading the conversation I was going to have with my parents when I got home.
  • His eyes caught sight of Henry standing behind the window, and he waved cheerfully at him as well.
gesture, gesticulate, signal, beckon, motion
1.1 [with object] Move (one’s hand or arm, or something held in one’s hand) to and fro: he waved a sheaf of papers in the air
More example sentences
  • Chad smiled and waved his hand, shaking his head.
  • As you sing the song the next time, you wave your left hand in time with the music.
  • They have no use for the dignified thumb sign, but wave their hands recklessly in an attempt to attract the rider and somehow get him to stop.
brandish, shake, swish, move to and fro, move up and down, wag, sweep, swing, flourish, wield;
flick, flutter
1.2Move to and fro with a swaying or undulating motion while remaining fixed to one point: the flag waved in the wind
More example sentences
  • Jamie lifted his head and looked at the green tent as it flapped and waved in the wind and rain.
  • You could barely see the folk for the flags waving.
  • And there's American flags waving in the background, and plenty of 'em.
ripple, flutter, undulate, stir, flap, sway, billow, shake, quiver, move
1.3 [with object] Convey (a greeting or other message) by moving one’s hand or something held in it to and fro: we waved our farewells [with two objects]: she waved him goodbye
More example sentences
  • As he passed, merchants and shoppers smiled and waved their greetings.
  • There are ready smiles from residents who wave their greetings as we eventually head off the road and towards a small clutch of humble wooden dwellings.
  • I waved greetings in the general direction of the blokes, and smiled at the girls.
1.4 [with object] Instruct (someone) to move in a particular direction by moving one’s hand: he waved her back
More example sentences
  • Along the way all the commissars move over and wave us by.
  • One of the nearby guards stepped forward with his weapon brandished, but she waved him back.
  • Police were running from the scene and waving people away.
2 [with object] Style (hair) so that it curls slightly: her hair had been carefully waved for the evening
More example sentences
  • For the model above the hair was waved with a stacked perm at the back of the neck to get volume up to the occipital bone, and layered and textured through the front.
  • She wore, black strappy high heeled sandals and her long dark hair was waved to perfection.
  • He was in his forties, she guessed, with thick, dark, waved hair and big baby-blue eyes.
2.1 [no object] (Of hair) grow with a slight curl: (as adjective waving) thick, waving gray hair sprouted back from his forehead
More example sentences
  • Her red hair waved in short curls around the small face and Lully's baby fat made her features look even more human.
  • Most of my hair was waving down my shoulders in soft waves, shining with the golden sheer cloth hanging all around.
  • Her reddish-golden hair was waving around past her shoulders, and shining as usual.


1A long body of water curling into an arched form and breaking on the shore.
Example sentences
  • He had anticipated this move though for as soon as she broke the surface a wave of water hit her.
  • The sound of the waves breaking on the shore is a fine way to fall asleep.
  • While the guys attempted to body surf the waves, the girls laid out on the sand to tan.
breaker, roller, comber, boomer, ripple, white horse, bore, big kahuna;
(waves) swell, surf, froth;
1.1A ridge of water between two depressions in open water: gulls and cormorants bobbed on the waves
More example sentences
  • The wooden hulls of the canoes would have bobbed on the desert of water, lapped by waves repeating and repeating the vastness of the earth in soft undulations.
  • Occasionally, we would jump in to the salt water and bob about in the waves to cool off.
  • After a short but thorough lesson on handling our craft we were away, bobbing through the gentle waves.
1.2A shape seen as comparable to a breaking wave: a wave of treetops stretched to the horizon
More example sentences
  • It stretches in concrete waves over the horizon and Kaliningrad is its greatest monumental evocation.
  • At the mine, a path leads into cloudforest, and along the way I can see over waves of razor-sharp ridges into South America.
  • The plains spread out below beyond waves of barren ridges and Junagadh, too, was clearly visible.
1.3 (usually the wave) An effect resembling a moving wave produced by successive sections of the crowd in a stadium standing up, raising their arms, lowering them, and sitting down again.
1.4 (the waves) literary The sea.
Example sentences
  • They were also a maritime power and ruled the waves around the western shores for a thousand years.
1.5A sudden occurrence of or increase in a specified phenomenon, feeling, or emotion: a wave of strikes had effectively paralyzed the government horror came over me in waves
More example sentences
  • So will one the features of this new age - in addition to the welcome growth in sexual openness - be a terrible wave of increased sexual assaults?
  • Momentum was increased by a fresh wave of Russian pogroms in 1903.
  • The United States also pledged $350m to help tsunami victims, a tenfold increase over its first wave of aid.
flow, rush, surge, flood, stream, tide, deluge, spate
surge, rush, stab, dart, upsurge, groundswell;
thrill, frisson;
2A gesture or signal made by moving one’s hand to and fro: he gave a little wave and walked off
More example sentences
  • The bartender will acknowledge this with a similar gesture or a wave.
  • She acknowledged the kind gesture with a wave and a smile.
  • She acknowledged the gesture with a wave of her own.
gesture, gesticulation;
signal, sign, motion;
3A slightly curling lock of hair: his hair was drying in unruly waves
More example sentences
  • His unruly dark waves of hair had been blowing across his forehead.
  • Everyone knew her hair dried in loose waves, which would shine from all of the delicate oils.
  • To avoid tangling and to maintain waves, cover hair with a bonnet at night.
3.1A tendency to curl in a person’s hair: her hair has a slight natural wave
More example sentences
  • Her long dark blonde hair had a natural wave and hung half to her waist.
  • We finger-styled Tamara's hair fresh out of the shower, coaxing out the natural wave in her otherwise pin-straight hair.
  • Standing at well over six feet, he had long, dark hair with a slight wave to it that just brushed his shoulders.
4 Physics A periodic disturbance of the particles of a substance that may be propagated without net movement of the particles, such as in the passage of undulating motion, heat, or sound. See also standing wave and traveling wave.
Example sentences
  • Song production clearly involves some metabolic cost to a bird because energy is transmitted to the surroundings in the form of sound pressure waves.
  • This imbalance creates pressure waves which propagate through the early universe.
  • Only in three dimensions can waves propagate in an undistorted and reverberation-free fashion.
ripple, vibration, oscillation
4.1A single curve in the course of a wave.
Example sentences
  • The amplitude of a wave tells you how much energy the wave has.
  • Beyond this point, the damping steals energy from the wave and its amplitude quickly declines.
4.2A variation of an electromagnetic field in the propagation of light or other radiation through a medium or vacuum.
Example sentences
  • The shape, size, and configuration of the transmitting antenna defines the wave frequency and the shape of the transmitted wave.
  • Information lies in the frequency and amplitude of the waves recorded in different channels.
  • When cornering the first one we found out that when the tracking device was positioned in between the two signals that the wave was disrupted.


See waive (usage)


make waves

informal Create a significant impression: he has already made waves as a sculptor
More example sentences
  • This story is already making waves in the book world.
  • Though only in its third year, Macalester's African American Studies Conference is already making waves.
  • Success in Athens is already making waves across the Mediterranean.
1.1Cause trouble: I don’t want to risk her welfare by making waves
More example sentences
  • Being part of the jeans generation is an affirmation of the positive aspects of life, and indicates a willingness to defy convention and question tradition, rather than keep a low profile and avoid making waves.
  • He wants to avoid making waves if he can, obviously.
  • But the affable lawyer with little stomach for making waves didn't take him off the job.
cause trouble, be disruptive, be troublesome;
make an impression, get noticed

Phrasal verbs


wave something aside

Dismiss something as unnecessary or irrelevant: he waved the objection aside and carried on
More example sentences
  • The man himself is, however, quick to wave the formalities aside.
  • ‘Whatever,’ Juliet said, waving their comments aside.
  • He had been begging her to let him call a doctor for the past few days, but she just kept waving his concerns aside.
dismiss, reject, brush aside, shrug off, disregard, ignore, discount, play down
informal pooh-pooh

wave someone/something down

Use one’s hand to give a signal to stop to a driver or vehicle.
Example sentences
  • The police advise you not to stop if they wave you down in the middle of the night but rather speed past them and drive to your nearest police station.
  • Jade waved them down and they stopped, amazingly.
  • The snowmobile screamed down the street as Toby passed the police cars, he knew he wouldn't be able to wave them down to stop as they were focused solely on getting to the garage.
flag down, hail, stop, summon, call, accost



Pronunciation: /ˈwāvləs/
Example sentences
  • Jonnie and I rode to the beach, which was this big beautiful vast expanse of flat sand and waveless ocean.
  • Situated west of Cape Cod, Nantasket is shadowed from swells that originate from the south to east-southeast, making the ocean here a waveless lake through much of the summer.
  • This summer in my part of California has been horrible for the beach, and not unlike those long hot waveless summers Florida can have.


Example sentences
  • As the fans blow softly, it creates a wave-like undulation under the cloth, creating the impression that one is looking at objects submerged beneath the movement of a black ocean.
  • For miles around, the terrain is made up of strange wave-like formations of sandstone, dotted with caves and pockmarked with craters.
  • The wave-like shapes of the far hills were already indistinct.


Old English wafian (verb), from the Germanic base of waver; the noun by alteration (influenced by the verb) of Middle English wawe '(sea) wave'.

  • wobble from mid 17th century:

    A German word first used in English in the mid 17th century. Wobble is related to wave (Old English) and waver (Middle English) which come from Old Norse, and until the mid 19th century was generally spelled wabble. To throw a wobbly is to have a fit of temper or panic. This is a recent expression recorded only from the 1960s, first of all in New Zealand, although throw a wobbler appears in the 1930s, in a US dictionary of underworld and prison slang. Wave did not come to be used for hair until the mid 19th century and the expression to make waves dates only from the 1960s. Mexican wave describing a wavelike effect when spectators stand, raise their arms, and sit again in successive crowd sections, originated at the World Cup football competition held in Mexico City in 1986.

Words that rhyme with wave

behave, brave, Cave, clave, concave, crave, Dave, deprave, engrave, enslave, fave, forgave, gave, grave, knave, lave, Maeve, misbehave, misgave, nave, outbrave, pave, rave, save, shave, shortwave, slave, stave, they've, waive

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: wave

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