tidal wave


(not in technical use) a large, destructive ocean wave, produced by a seaquake, hurricane, or strong wind.Compare tsunami.
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.
any widespread or powerful movement, opinion, or tendency: a tidal wave of public indignation.

Origin of tidal wave

First recorded in 1820–30
Can be confusedcyclone hurricane tidal wave tornado tsunami typhoon
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for tidal wave

tsunami, eagre, seiche

Examples from the Web for tidal wave

Historical Examples of tidal wave

  • The tidal-wave carried him and twenty others to the end of the room.

    H. R.

    Edwin Lefevre

  • Barring earthquake or tidal-wave, the worst had already befallen him.


    Jack London

  • Like a tidal-wave breaking on the shore it came to Francesco in a sudden flood of understanding.

    The Hill of Venus

    Nathan Gallizier

  • The mystical viewpoint takes into account the fact that there is a cosmic law which acts like a tidal-wave.

  • Then the totality of it all swept home to him, swept through his entire startled being as a tidal-wave sweeps over a coast-shoal.

    The Shadow

    Arthur Stringer

British Dictionary definitions for tidal wave

tidal wave


a name (not accepted in technical usage) for tsunami
an unusually large incoming wave, often caused by high winds and spring tides
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

tidal wave in Science

tidal wave

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
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
A tsunami.
Usage: 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.