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[weyv] /weɪv/
a disturbance on the surface of a liquid body, as the sea or a lake, in the form of a moving ridge or swell.
any surging or progressing movement or part resembling a wave of the sea:
a wave of the pulse.
a swell, surge, or rush, as of feeling or of a certain condition:
a wave of disgust sweeping over a person; a wave of cholera throughout the country.
a widespread feeling, opinion, tendency, etc.:
a wave of anti-intellectualism; the new wave of installment buying.
a mass movement, as of troops, settlers, or migrating birds.
an outward curve, or one of a series of such curves, in a surface or line; undulation.
an act or instance of waving.
a fluttering sign or signal made with the hand, a flag, etc.:
a farewell wave.
natural waviness of the hair, or a special treatment to impart waviness:
to have a wave in one's hair; to get a shampoo and a wave.
a period or spell of unusually hot or cold weather.
Physics. a progressive disturbance propagated from point to point in a medium or space without progress or advance by the points themselves, as in the transmission of sound or light.
  1. water.
  2. a body of water.
  3. the sea.
(at sports events, especially baseball games) a momentary standing and sitting back down by spectators in a sequential, lateral way to create, en masse, a wavelike effect visually.
verb (used without object), waved, waving.
to move freely and gently back and forth or up and down, as by the action of air currents, sea swells, etc.:
The flags were waving in the wind.
to curve alternately in opposite directions; have an undulating form:
The road waved along the valley.
to bend or sway up and down or to and fro, as branches or plants in the wind.
to be moved, especially alternately in opposite directions:
The woman's handkerchief waved in encouragement.
to give a signal by fluttering or flapping something:
She waved to me with her hand.
verb (used with object), waved, waving.
to cause to flutter or have a waving motion in:
A night wind waves the tattered banners.
to cause to bend or sway up and down or to and fro:
The storm waved the heavy branches of the elm.
to give an undulating form to; cause to curve up and down or in and out.
to give a wavy appearance or pattern to, as silk.
to impart a wave to (the hair).
to move, especially alternately in opposite directions:
to wave the hand.
to signal to by waving a flag or the like; direct by a waving movement:
to wave a train to a halt; to wave traffic around an obstacle.
to signify or express by a waving movement:
to wave a last goodbye.
make waves, Informal. to disturb the status quo; cause trouble, as by questioning or resisting the accepted rules, procedures, etc.:
The best way to stay out of trouble at the office is not to make waves.
Origin of wave
1325-75; Middle English waven (v.), Old English wafian to wave the hands; cognate with Middle High German waben; cf. waver1
Related forms
waveless, adjective
wavelessly, adverb
wavingly, adverb
wavelike, adjective
outwave, verb (used with object), outwaved, outwaving.
underwave, noun
underwaving, noun
unwaving, adjective
Can be confused
waive, wave.
1. undulation, whitecap. Wave, ripple, breaker, surf refer to a ridge or swell on the surface of water. Wave is the general word: waves in a high wind. A ripple is the smallest kind of wave, such as is caused by a stone thrown into a pool: ripples in a brook. A breaker is a wave breaking, or about to break, upon the shore or upon rocks: the roar of breakers. Surf is the collective name for breakers: Heavy surf makes bathing dangerous. 14. undulate, flutter, float, sway, rock; fluctuate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for wavelike
Historical Examples
  • The road underfoot seemed to rise and fall in wavelike undulations.

    Uncanny Tales Various
  • However, the wavelike eddying of the crowd suddenly subsided.

    The Three Eyes Maurice Leblanc
  • The motion of the strings is wavelike, of a broader flow, though underneath we scan the several lesser currents.

  • F is the foot or muscular pad which forms the foot by the wavelike contractions of which it moves.

    Our British Snails John William Horsley
  • There is little of that undulating, wavelike slope and swell which characterizes the peculiar species of surface called prairie.

  • She lifted to him the superb confidence of her glance, although nervous tremors shook her in wavelike succession.

    The Flying Mercury Eleanor M. Ingram
  • All around stretches the wavelike succession of the hills, diversified with forest and bright with heather and gorse.

    In Unfamiliar England Thomas Dowler Murphy
  • None of them had been solidly founded enough to withstand the wavelike rush of Rodney Aldrich into her life.

    The Real Adventure

    Henry Kitchell Webster
  • Only it is now thoroughly dissected by profound, ramifying valleys, and has been resolved into a sea of wavelike crests and peaks.

    Mount Rainier

  • Hence we can easily realize that, although we cannot see or feel the ether, any disturbance of it will set it in wavelike motion.

    ABC of Electricity William Henry Meadowcroft
British Dictionary definitions for wavelike


to move or cause to move freely to and fro: the banner waved in the wind
(intransitive) to move the hand to and fro as a greeting
to signal or signify by or as if by waving something
(transitive) to direct to move by or as if by waving something: he waved me on
to form or be formed into curves, undulations, etc
(transitive) to give a wavy or watered appearance to (silk, etc)
(transitive) to set waves in (the hair)
one of a sequence of ridges or undulations that moves across the surface of a body of a liquid, esp the sea: created by the wind or a moving object and gravity
any undulation on or at the edge of a surface reminiscent of such a wave: a wave across the field of corn
the waves, the sea
anything that suggests the movement of a wave, as by a sudden rise: a crime wave
a widespread movement that advances in a body: a wave of settlers swept into the country
the act or an instance of waving
(physics) an oscillation propagated through a medium or space such that energy is periodically interchanged between two kinds of disturbance. For example, an oscillating electric field generates a magnetic oscillation and vice versa, hence an electromagnetic wave is produced. Similarly a wave on a liquid comprises vertical and horizontal displacements See also antinode, longitudinal wave, node, standing wave, transverse wave
(physics) a graphical representation of a wave obtained by plotting the magnitude of the disturbance against time at a particular point in the medium or space; waveform
a prolonged spell of some weather condition: a heat wave
an undulating curve or series of curves or loose curls in the hair
an undulating pattern or finish on a fabric
short for wave moth
make waves, to cause trouble; disturb the status quo
(US, slang) ride the wave, to enjoy a period of success and good fortune
Derived Forms
waveless, adjective
wavelike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English wafian (vb); related to Old High German weban to weave, Old Norse vafra; see waver; C16 (n) changed from earlier wāwe, probably from Old English wǣg motion; compare wag1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for wavelike



"move back and forth," Old English wafian "to wave with the hands" (related to wæfre "wavering, restless"), from Proto-Germanic *wab- (cf. Old Norse vafra "to hover about," Middle High German waben "to wave, undulate"), possibly from PIE root *webh- "to move to and fro; to weave" (see weave (v.)). Meaning "to make a sign by a wave of the hand" is from 1510s. Related: Waved; waving.

I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
[Stevie Smith]



"moving billow of water," 1520s, from wave (v.), replacing Middle English waw, which is from Old English wagian "to move to and fro" (cf. Old Saxon, Old High German wag, Old Frisian weg, Old Norse vagr "water in motion, wave, billow," Gothic wegs "tempest;" see wag (v.)). The usual Old English word for "moving billow of water" was .

The "hand motion" meaning is recorded from 1680s; meaning "undulating line" is recorded from 1660s. Of people in masses, first recorded 1852; in physics, from 1832. Sense in heat wave is from 1843. The crowd stunt in stadiums is attested under this name from 1984, the thing itself said to have been done first Oct. 15, 1981, at the Yankees-A's AL championship series game in the Oakland Coliseum; soon picked up and popularized at University of Washington. To make waves "cause trouble" is attested from 1962.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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wavelike in Medicine

wave (wāv)

  1. A disturbance traveling through a medium by which energy is transferred from one particle of the medium to another without causing any permanent displacement of the medium itself.

  2. A graphic representation of the variation of such a disturbance with time.

  3. A single cycle that is representative of such a disturbance.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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wavelike in Science

A disturbance, oscillation, or vibration, either of a medium and moving through that medium (such as water and sound waves), or of some quantity with different values at different points in space, moving through space (such as electromagnetic waves or a quantum mechanical wave described by the wave function). See also longitudinal wave, transverse wave, wave function. See Note at refraction.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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wavelike in Culture

wave definition

In physics, any regularly recurring event, such as surf coming in toward a beach, that can be thought of as a disturbance moving through a medium. Waves are characterized by wavelength, frequency, and the speed at which they move. Waves are found in many forms.

Note: The motion of a wave and the motion of the medium on which the wave moves are not the same: ocean waves, for example, move toward the beach, but the water itself merely moves up and down. Sound waves are spread by alternating compression and expansion of air.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with wavelike


see: make waves
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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