rip·ple | \ˈri-pəl \
rippled; rippling\ˈri-p(ə-)liŋ \

Definition of ripple 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to become lightly ruffled or covered with small waves

b : to flow in small waves

c : to fall in soft undulating folds the scarf rippled to the floor

2 : to flow with a light rise and fall of sound or inflection laughter rippled over the audience

3 : to move with an undulating motion or so as to cause ripples the canoe rippled through the water

4 : to have or produce a ripple effect : spread the news rippled outwards

transitive verb

1 : to stir up small waves on

2 : to impart a wavy motion or appearance to rippling his arm muscles

3 : to utter or play with a slight rise and fall of sound



Definition of ripple (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a shallow stretch of rough water in a stream

b(1) : the ruffling of the surface of water

(2) : a small wave

2a : ripple mark

b : a sound like that of rippling water a ripple of laughter

c : a usually slight noticeable effect or reaction

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Other Words from ripple


rippler \ˈri-p(ə-)lər \ noun


ripply \ˈri-p(ə-)lē \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for ripple

Synonyms: Verb

bubble, dribble, gurgle, lap, plash, splash, trickle, wash

Antonyms: Verb

pour, roll, stream

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Examples of ripple in a Sentence


Water rippled under the dock. We could see the lion's muscles ripple. A cool breeze rippled the water.


The pebble made ripples in the pond when I threw it in.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

With a narrative form that has something of the beauty and rippling reach of epic poetry, Massini uses his family saga to craft a parable of what, arguably, has been the final nail in the coffin of the American Dream. Demetrios Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Lehman Trilogy': Theater Review," 13 July 2018 Strong winds combined with a drop in pressure pushed water toward the eastern Lake Michigan shoreline and then rippled south, into Grand Traverse Bay. Alana Nehring, Detroit Free Press, "Meteotsunami spotted on Lake Michigan near Traverse City," 18 June 2018 That tumble caused acute pain for oil producers, whose troubles rippled out into stocks, bonds and the broader economy. Alison Sider, WSJ, "Oil Is Fast Approaching $70. Is the Economy Ready for It?," 22 Apr. 2018 Italian political dysfunction that ripples through global financial markets and has the potential to upend Europe is something the world woke up to Tuesday morning. Neil Irwin, New York Times, "The Danger That Italy’s Political Crisis Poses for the Global Economy," 30 May 2018 In Albert Breer’s latest mock, vetted by insiders around the league, the Giants make a call that ripples through the draft—and leaves Buffalo moving up (but not too far) to snag its quarterback. Albert Breer,, "NFL Mock Draft Vol. 4: The Giants Hold the Key—To Draft or Not to Draft a Quarterback?," 17 Apr. 2018 That slight shift represents a major change in emphasis that could soon ripple through the nation’s courtrooms, bringing with it a legal recognition that pets have interests independent of their human owners. Elisa Orzac Shoenberger,, "When a marriage ends, who gets the family pet?," 13 July 2018 Shoppers also increasingly want to know where their food came from, a factor thrown into sharp relief by contamination episodes like the deadly E. coli outbreak this spring linked to romaine lettuce, which rippled through the U.S. food supply chain. Jennifer Smith, WSJ, "BrightFarms Raises $55 Million in New Funding Round," 28 June 2018 The explosions of inequality — and waves of austerity — that have rippled through the West’s mixed economies in recent decades offers some support for this narrative. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "The Liberal Media Can Have Ideological Diversity Without Conservatives," 6 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Just like a photon of light behaves like both a particle and a wave, this blob also has wavelike properties, where one part can actually interfere with another part, to produce ripples in itself like waves colliding in a pond. Sophia Chen, WIRED, "The Quest to Make Super Cold Quantum Blobs in Space," 25 June 2018 That Gretna didn’t set out to program women is actually one of the more encouraging signs as notions of gender equality ripple through artistic realms. Peter Dobrin,, "Classical concerts: 'Star Wars' at the Mann, Curtis Summerfest, 'Fred' the organ at Kimmel, more," 6 June 2018 The attack Cruz is alleged to have unleashed on the school Wednesday killed 17 people, including three JROTC members who were at school that day, sending a tragic ripple through the group of 275 students and highlighting their courage under fire. The Washington Post,, "JROTC remembers 3 slain in Florida high school shooting," 20 Feb. 2018 The #MeToo movement that has toppled the careers of Hollywood luminaries and political heavyweights has registered little more than a ripple in Venezuela. Washington Post, "In embattled Venezuela, beauty offers ladder out of poverty," 6 July 2018 Loss of historic farms causes economic ripples Gary Rock, 59, lives in Hodgenville, Kentucky, an area of rolling hills and loose rock fences, on a farm that has been passed down through his family for 300 years. NBC News, "Best advice to U.S. dairy farmers? 'Sell out as fast as you can'," 30 June 2018 The ripples continue: The top marketing and sales executives from each of baseball’s 30 clubs will visit San Diego next week. Bryce Miller,, "Padres leadership wise to build ties with MLB's 'in' crowd," 15 June 2018 Clear, still waters with nary a ripple breaking the surface hugged by ancient sandstone cliffs flecked with lush, green flora instantly transport you to a place of serenity. Carla Minsky, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Travel is Good for the Soul," 10 June 2018 Now a month into the third, a minor concussion has resulted in what would’ve caused a major ripple in 2017: achieving results without Walker. Charlie Hatch,, "FC Cincinnati is noticeably and statistically better with Kenney Walker playing," 12 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ripple.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ripple


circa 1671, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1755, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for ripple


perhaps frequentative of rip entry 1

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Statistics for ripple

Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ripple

The first known use of ripple was circa 1671

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More Definitions for ripple



English Language Learners Definition of ripple

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to move in small waves

: to pass or spread through or over (someone or something)



English Language Learners Definition of ripple (Entry 2 of 2)

: a small wave on the surface of a liquid

: a shape or pattern having small waves

: a sound that gradually becomes louder and then quieter


rip·ple | \ˈri-pəl \
rippled; rippling

Kids Definition of ripple

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to move or cause to move in small waves The lion's muscles rippled. A breeze rippled the water.

2 : to pass or spread over or through Laughter rippled through the crowd.



Kids Definition of ripple (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a very small wave on the surface of a liquid The rock made ripples in the pond.

2 : something that passes or spreads through a ripple of laughter

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Comments on ripple

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