tidal wave

See synonyms for tidal wave on Thesaurus.com
  1. (not in technical use) a large, destructive ocean wave, produced by a seaquake, hurricane, or strong wind.: Compare tsunami.

  2. either of the two great wavelike swellings of the ocean surface that move around the earth on opposite sides and give rise to tide, caused by the attraction of the moon and sun.

  1. any widespread or powerful movement, opinion, or tendency: a tidal wave of public indignation.

Origin of tidal wave

First recorded in 1820–30

Words that may be confused with tidal wave

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use tidal wave in a sentence

  • A tidal wave rolls landward, and twenty thousand human beings are drowned, or crushed to death.

    God and my Neighbour | Robert Blatchford
  • Each time the tidal wave sweeps in toward the shore it urges the finer particles of sediment along with it.

    Outlines of the Earth's History | Nathaniel Southgate Shaler
  • The mighty conflict of ideas had swept round the globe like a tidal wave of the ocean.

    The Boys of '61 | Charles Carleton Coffin.
  • "It must be the tidal wave that Phyllis spoke about," thought Patty.

  • The huge tidal wave that swept McKenzie and his men to their graves in the chilly depths of the Atlantic did more than that.

    The Viking Blood | Frederick William Wallace

British Dictionary definitions for tidal wave

tidal wave

  1. a name (not accepted in technical usage) for tsunami

  2. an unusually large incoming wave, often caused by high winds and spring tides

  1. a forceful and widespread movement in public opinion, action, etc

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

Scientific definitions for tidal wave

tidal wave

  1. Either of the two swells or crests of surface ocean water created by the gravitational effects of the Moon and Sun and circling the globe on opposite sides to create the daily periods of high and low tides. Also called tidal bulge

  2. An unusual rise in the level of water along a seacoast, as from a storm or a combination of wind and tide. Also called storm surge

  1. A tsunami.

usage For tidal wave

The term tidal wave is used in everyday speech to refer to a gigantic and enormously destructive wave caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption-what scientists would properly call a tsunami. When scientists use the word tidal wave, they normally are referring to an unusually large wave or bulge of water that sometimes occurs around a high tide. These tidal waves are certainly big and powerful, but they are tiny in comparison with tsunamis.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.