[ rip-uhl ]
/ ˈrɪp əl /
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See synonyms for: ripple / ripples / rippling / rippleless on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object), rip·pled, rip·pling.
verb (used with object), rip·pled, rip·pling.
to form small waves or undulations on; agitate lightly.
to mark as if with ripples; give a wavy form to.
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Question 1 of 7
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Origin of ripple

First recorded in 1610–20; origin uncertain

synonym study for ripple

7. See wave.


rip·ple·less, adjectiverip·pling·ly, adverb

Other definitions for ripple (2 of 2)

[ rip-uhl ]
/ ˈrɪp əl /

a toothed or comblike device for removing seeds or capsules from flax, hemp, etc.
verb (used with object), rip·pled, rip·pling.
to remove the seeds or capsules from (flax or hemp) with a ripple.

Origin of ripple

First recorded in 1425–75; late Middle English; cognate with West Frisian ripel, Dutch repel, German Riffel
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does ripple mean?

A ripple is a small wave, ruffle, or wrinkle on the surface of something, such as water, fabric, clouds, or hair.

A raindrop causes ripples in a puddle. A soft gust of wind can cause ripples on the surface of a lake, on the surface of a sheet hanging from a clothesline, or through the tall grasses in the meadow. Ripples aren’t typically breaks in the surface where they appear—they are disturbances that change its shape momentarily.

The word can also be applied to waves or wrinkles involving intangible or abstract things, such as ripples of cause and effect. Much like the ripples that result from tossing a stone into a pond, one action causes many other things to happen in a kind of chain reaction known as a ripple effect

Ripple can also refer to a cascading sound, like that of rippling water, as in a ripple of laughter. 

More specifically, ripple can refer to a swirl of a particular ingredient in ice cream, such as caramel or chocolate. There are even some flavors whose name indicates what the ripple consists of, such as butterscotch ripple.  

Ripple is also used as a verb meaning to form or cause such waves, ruffles, or wrinkles, as in The wind rippled the surface of the river. It can also mean to gently flow or rise and fall.

Things with ripples in them can be described as rippled or ripply.

Example: I like to throw rocks into the still pond and see how far the ripples extend out.

Where does ripple come from?

The first records of the word ripple in reference to small waves or wrinkles come from the 1600s. It may derive from the verb rip, but its origin is uncertain.

The ripples that appear in a flat surface of water when you throw a pebble into it are often used as a metaphor for the effects of our actions in life—the ones that extend out beyond where we can observe them. Relatedly, reality is sometimes depicted as “fabric” that can be effected and rippled in this way.

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What are some other forms of ripple?

  • rippling (continuous tense verb, adjective)
  • ripply (adjective)

What are some synonyms for ripple?

What are some words that share a root or word element with ripple


What are some words that often get used in discussing ripple?


How is ripple used in real life?

The word ripple is most commonly used in the context of small waves on surfaces like water, but it can be used in many different situations.


Try using ripple!

On which of the following things can ripples sometimes be found?

A. water
B. fabric
C. clouds
D. all of the above

How to use ripple in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ripple (1 of 2)

/ (ˈrɪpəl) /


Derived forms of ripple

rippler, nounrippling, adjectiveripplingly, adverbripply, adjective

Word Origin for ripple

C17: perhaps from rip 1

British Dictionary definitions for ripple (2 of 2)

/ (ˈrɪpəl) /

a special kind of comb designed to separate the seed from the stalks in flax, hemp, or broomcorn
(tr) to comb with this tool

Derived forms of ripple

rippler, noun

Word Origin for ripple

C14: of Germanic origin; compare Middle Dutch repelen, Middle High German reffen to ripple
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