- (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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for tidal wave
The tidal-wave carried him and twenty others to the end of the room.H. R.
Barring earthquake or tidal-wave, the worst had already befallen him.Adventure
Like a tidal-wave breaking on the shore it came to Francesco in a sudden flood of understanding.The Hill of Venus
The mystical viewpoint takes into account the fact that there is a cosmic law which acts like a tidal-wave.Sex=The Unknown Quantity
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
- 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
- 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.