verb (used without object), waved, wav·ing.

verb (used with object), waved, wav·ing.


    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 formswave·less, adjectivewave·less·ly, adverbwav·ing·ly, adverbwave·like, adjectiveout·wave, verb (used with object), out·waved, out·wav·ing.un·der·wave, nounun·der·wav·ing, nounun·wav·ing, adjective
Can be confusedwaive wave

Synonyms for 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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for make waves



to move or cause to move freely to and frothe banner waved in the wind
(intr) to move the hand to and fro as a greeting
to signal or signify by or as if by waving something
(tr) to direct to move by or as if by waving somethinghe waved me on
to form or be formed into curves, undulations, etc
(tr) to give a wavy or watered appearance to (silk, etc)
(tr) 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 wavea wave across the field of corn
the waves the sea
anything that suggests the movement of a wave, as by a sudden risea crime wave
a widespread movement that advances in a bodya 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 displacementsSee 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 conditiona 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
ride the wave US slang to enjoy a period of success and good fortune
Derived Formswaveless, adjectivewavelike, adjective

Word Origin for wave

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 wag 1
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

Word Origin and History for make waves



"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

make waves in Medicine




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

make waves 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

make waves in Culture


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.


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with make waves

make waves

Cause a disturbance or controversy, as in We've finally settled our differences, so please don't make waves. This expression alludes to causing turbulence in the water. [Slang; mid-1900s] Also see rock the boat.


see make waves.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.