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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English waven, from Old English wafian (to wave, fluctuate, waver in mind, wonder), from Proto-West Germanic *wabbjan, from Proto-Germanic *wabōną, *wabjaną (to wander, sway), from Proto-Indo-European *webʰ- (to move to and from, wander).

Cognate with Middle High German waben (to wave), German wabern (to waft), Icelandic váfa (to fluctuate, waver, doubt). See also waver.


wave (third-person singular simple present waves, present participle waving, simple past and past participle waved)

  1. (intransitive) To move back and forth repeatedly and somewhat loosely.
    The flag waved in the gentle breeze.
    • 2011 October 1, Tom Fordyce, “Rugby World Cup 2011: England 16-12 Scotland”, in BBC Sport:
      But the World Cup winning veteran's left boot was awry again, the attempt sliced horribly wide of the left upright, and the saltires were waving aloft again a moment later when a long pass in the England midfield was picked off to almost offer up a breakaway try.
  2. (intransitive) To move one’s hand back and forth (generally above the shoulders) in greeting or departure.
    • 1978, Nixon, Richard, RN: the Memoirs of Richard Nixon[1], Grosset & Dunlap, →ISBN, →LCCN, →OCLC, →OL, page 1090:
      I raised my arms in a final salute. I smiled. I waved goodbye. I turned into the helicopter, the door was closed, the red carpet was rolled up.
  3. (transitive, metonymically) To call attention to, or give a direction or command to, by a waving motion, as of the hand; to signify by waving; to beckon; to signal; to indicate.
    I waved goodbye from across the room.
  4. (intransitive) To have an undulating or wavy form.
  5. (transitive) To raise into inequalities of surface; to give an undulating form or surface to.
  6. (transitive) To produce waves to the hair.
    • 1977, Agatha Christie, chapter 4, in An Autobiography, part II, London: Collins, →ISBN:
      There was also hairdressing: hairdressing, too, really was hairdressing in those times — no running a comb through it and that was that. It was curled, frizzed, waved, put in curlers overnight, waved with hot tongs; [].
  7. (intransitive, baseball) To swing and miss at a pitch.
    Jones waves at strike one.
  8. (transitive) To cause to move back and forth repeatedly.
    The starter waved the flag to begin the race.
  9. (transitive, metonymically) To signal (someone or something) with a waving movement.
  10. (intransitive, obsolete) To fluctuate; to waver; to be in an unsettled state.
  11. (intransitive, ergative) To move like a wave, or by floating; to waft.
    • 1803, William Hogarth, Anecdotes of Mr. Hogarth: And Explanatory Descriptions of the Plates of Hogarth Restored, page 137:
      But in the last, this dotted line, by the twisting as well as the bending of the horn, is changed from the waving into the serpentine line
    • 1850, Pierce Egan, Robin Hood and Little John: or, The merry men of Sherwood forest, page 272:
      the flowers will not bloom less brightly, nor the grass be less green and fresh because it is waving over the head of one who loved to look upon their tender beauty while living.
    • 1851, Margaret Plues, Rambles in Search of Ferns, page 31:
      The cypresslike ferns were not waving over these, as they waved over the corals in the wood, but the little spleenwort, called Wall-rue, was resolved that their tomb should not be without verdure.
    • 1866, John Saunders, Bound to the Wheel, page 89:
      The moonlight fell into the room, and the shadows waved over him
    • 1951, Doris Lessing, “The Second Hut”, in African Stories, published 2014, page 82:
      Walking through the fields, where the maize was now waving over his head, pale gold with a froth of white, the sharp dead leaves scything crisply against the wind, he could see nothing but that black foetid hut
    • 1997, Elizabeth Barrett, Victoria Bovard, And His Love Shown Down, page 88:
      A chill waved over my consciousness as my worst nightmare erupted into reality.
    • 2015, Arthur Calder-Marshall, About Levy:
      The two stood in the window peering down where parents moved across grass, pointing tongues of colour waving over them.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

The wave after a ferry (1)

From Middle English *wave, partially from waven (to fluctuate, wave) (see above) and partially from Middle English wawe, waghe (wave), from Old English wǣg (a wave, billow, motion, water, flood, sea), from Proto-Germanic *wēgaz (motion, storm, wave), from Proto-Indo-European *weǵʰ- (to drag, carry). Cognate with North Frisian weage (wave, flood, sea), German Woge (wave), French vague (wave) (from Germanic), Gothic 𐍅𐌴𐌲𐍃 (wēgs, a wave). See also waw.


wave (plural waves)

  1. A moving disturbance in the level of a body of liquid; an undulation.
    The wave traveled from the center of the lake before breaking on the shore.
    • 2020 December 2, Paul Bigland, “My weirdest and wackiest Rover yet”, in Rail, page 65:
      The new sea wall may stop the waves from the sea, but not from the children who enthusiastically greet our train as it passes. It's great to see this ages-old habit is still going strong.
  2. (poetic) The ocean.
    • 1895, Fiona Macleod (William Sharp), The Sin-Eater and Other Tales
      [] your father Murtagh Ross, and his lawful childless wife, Dionaid, and his sister Anna—one and all, they lie beneath the green wave or in the brown mould.
  3. (physics) A moving disturbance in the energy level of a field.
    Gravity waves, while predicted by theory for decades, have been notoriously difficult to detect.
  4. A shape that alternatingly curves in opposite directions.
    Her hair had a nice wave to it.
    sine wave
  5. Any of a number of species of moths in the geometrid subfamily Sterrhinae, which have wavy markings on the wings.
  6. A loose back-and-forth movement, as of the hands.
    He dismissed her with a wave of the hand.
  7. (figuratively) A sudden, but temporary, uptick in something.
    Synonym: rush
    A wave of shoppers stampeded through the door when the store opened for its Christmas discount special.
    A wave of retirees began moving to the coastal area.
    A wave of emotion overcame her when she thought about her son who was killed in battle.
    • 2011 January 11, Jonathan Stevenson, “West Ham 2 - 1 Birmingham”, in BBC[2]:
      Foster had been left unsighted by Scott Dann's positioning at his post, but the goalkeeper was about to prove his worth to Birmingham by keeping them in the game with a series of stunning saves as West Ham produced waves after wave of attack in their bid to find a crucial second goal.
  8. (video games, by extension) One of the successive swarms of enemies sent to attack the player in certain games.
    • 2011, Raffaele Cecco, Supercharged JavaScript Graphics: With HTML5 Canvas, JQuery, and More:
      As the player eliminates each wave of 55 aliens, the next wave begins lower than the one previous.
  9. (usually "the wave") A group activity in a crowd imitating a wave going through water, where people in successive parts of the crowd stand and stretch upward, then sit.
  • (an undulation): und (obsolete, rare)
  • (group activity): Mexican wave (chiefly Commonwealth)
Derived terms[edit]
Terms derived from wave (noun)
Related terms[edit]
Terms related to wave (noun)


wave (third-person singular simple present waves, present participle waving, simple past and past participle waved)

  1. To generate a wave.
    • 2021, Michio Kaku, The God Equation:
      If the electron had wavelike properties, then what was disturbing the medium in which the wave existed? What was waving?


Etymology 3[edit]

See waive.


wave (third-person singular simple present waves, present participle waving, simple past and past participle waved)

  1. Obsolete spelling of waive
    • 1815 December (indicated as 1816), [Jane Austen], chapter VII, in Emma: [], volume III, London: [] [Charles Roworth and James Moyes] for John Murray, →OCLC, page 119:
      Ladies and gentlemen—I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse to say, that she waves her right of knowing exactly what you may all be thinking of, and only requires something very entertaining from each of you, in a general way.

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of waven