\ ˈwāv How to pronounce wave (audio) \
waved; waving

Definition of wave

 (Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to motion with the hands or with something held in them in signal or salute
2 : to float, play, or shake in an air current : move loosely to and fro : flutter flags waving in the breeze
3 of water : to move in waves : heave
4 : to become moved or brandished to and fro signs waved in the crowd
5 : to move before the wind with a wavelike motion field of waving grain
6 : to follow a curving line or take a wavy form : undulate

transitive verb

1 : to swing (something) back and forth or up and down
2 : to impart a curving or undulating shape to waved her hair
3a : to motion to (someone) to go in an indicated direction or to stop : signal waved down a passing car
b : to gesture with (the hand or an object) in greeting or farewell or in homage
c : to dismiss or put out of mind : disregard usually used with aside or off
d : to convey by waving waved farewell
4 : brandish, flourish waved a pistol menacingly

Definition of wave (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : a moving ridge or swell on the surface of a liquid (as of the sea)
b : open water
2a : a shape or outline having successive curves
b : a waviness of the hair
c : an undulating line or streak or a pattern formed by such lines
3 : something that swells and dies away: such as
a : a surge of sensation or emotion a wave of anger swept over her
b : a movement sweeping large numbers in a common direction waves of protest
c : a peak or climax of activity a wave of buying
4 : a sweep of hand or arm or of some object held in the hand used as a signal or greeting
5 : a rolling or undulatory movement or one of a series of such movements passing along a surface or through the air
6 : a movement like that of an ocean wave: such as
a : a surging movement of a group a big new wave of women politicians
b : one of a succession of influxes of people migrating into a region
c(1) : a moving group of animals of one kind
(2) : a sudden rapid increase in a population
d : a line of attacking or advancing troops or airplanes
e : a display of people in a large crowd (as at a sports event) successively rising, lifting their arms overhead, and quickly sitting so as to form a swell moving through the crowd
7a : a disturbance or variation that transfers energy progressively from point to point in a medium and that may take the form of an elastic deformation or of a variation of pressure, electric or magnetic intensity, electric potential, or temperature
b : one complete cycle of such a disturbance
8 : a marked change in temperature : a period of hot or cold weather
9 : an undulating or jagged line constituting a graphic representation of an action
\ ˈwāv How to pronounce Wave (audio) \

Definition of Wave (Entry 3 of 3)

: a member of the women's component of the U.S. Navy formed during World War II and discontinued in the 1970s

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from wave

Noun (1)

waveless \ ˈwāv-​ləs How to pronounce waveless (audio) \ adjective
wavelessly adverb
wavelike \ ˈwāv-​ˌlīk How to pronounce wavelike (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for wave

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun (1)

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for wave


swing, wave, flourish, brandish, thrash mean to wield or cause to move to and fro or up and down. swing implies regular or uniform movement. swing the rope back and forth wave usually implies smooth or continuous motion. waving the flag flourish suggests vigorous, ostentatious, graceful movement. flourished the winning lottery ticket brandish implies threatening or menacing motion. brandishing a knife thrash suggests vigorous, abrupt, violent movement. an infant thrashing his arms about

Examples of wave in a Sentence

Verb We waved to our friends through the window. She was waving in the direction of the bridge. Flags were waving in the breeze. The magician waved his magic wand. The leader of the parade waved a flag. It was so hot that we were all waving our hands in front of our faces to cool off. Noun (1) The waves crashed onto the rocks. She has a wave in her hair. Waves of warm air washed over us. We got a wave from the Queen. The rabbit disappeared with a wave of the magician's wand.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Prepare to wave goodbye to 2020 by reserving a staycation at a Connecticut hotel, inn or B&B now. courant.com, "Community news for the Glastonbury edition," 13 Nov. 2020 Harris had to wave her briefing book back and forth to clear the air. Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY, "Kamala Harris breaks glass ceiling as first female vice president, first woman VP of color," 7 Nov. 2020 Elgin resident Leonor Nevarez, who wore a red Spider-Man mask, was among family members who came out to wave to the seniors. Karie Angell Luc, chicagotribune.com, "Halloween trick-or-treaters just as fun to watch from the windows at senior complex in Elgin," 31 Oct. 2020 Protesters often wave signs and blare horns outside Assembly meetings. Marc Lester, Anchorage Daily News, "Meet Austin Quinn-Davidson, Anchorage’s new acting mayor," 23 Oct. 2020 Officials said the devices will allow pedestrians to simply wave a hand in front of the device instead of touching a crosswalk button. Chronicle Staff, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: August 11-12," 17 Aug. 2020 Knotted blue roots protrude from an abstract, sloping hillside, and bright green leaves seem to wave in the breeze. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Art Historian Identifies the Spot Where Vincent van Gogh Painted His Final Work," 29 July 2020 Hearing the reaction, the Gators coach did an aboutface, exited the tunnel and began to wave his arms again as the crowd grew even louder. Edgar Thompson, orlandosentinel.com, "3 players ejected after scuffle during Gators vs. Missouri game," 31 Oct. 2020 Pastors wave their hands over a person deemed to be possessed, shout orders for the devil to depart, then hold their hand to the person's forehead and push them backwards, occasionally resulting in their collapse. David Crary, Star Tribune, "Exorcism: Increasingly frequent, including after US protests," 31 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Whatever the causes, public-health experts knew a fall and winter wave was a high likelihood, and urged us to get ready. Zeynep Tufekci, The Atlantic, "Lock Yourself Down, Now," 14 Nov. 2020 That wave is here — and lockdown measures are imminently to follow. refinery29.com, "COVID-19 Lockdowns Are Starting Soon — Here’s What You Need To Know," 12 Nov. 2020 But the initial wave of stockpiling is over, the company said Monday — revealing a tougher path ahead. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "Wall Street is starting to look beyond Covid," 10 Nov. 2020 The next wave of 5G service is fertile ground for controversy, but in one respect, most observers agree: America needs faster, more accessible mobile internet service—and the U.S. military controls many airwaves that are well-suited to that task. Ryan Tracy, WSJ, "Should the U.S. Change How It Doles Out Airwaves for 5G?," 10 Nov. 2020 There are growing concerns that a nasty second wave of infections could be a knockout blow for the economy. Katherine Dunn, Fortune, "As COVID spreads across Europe, a weary continent goes back into lockdown," 7 Nov. 2020 Ultimately, that wave was enough to topple Lacey, who has been criticized locally for declining to charge police officers in a number of shootings of unarmed men during her eight years in office. James Queally, Los Angeles Times, "George Gascón will be L.A. County’s next district attorney as incumbent Jackie Lacey concedes," 6 Nov. 2020 Keith said the initial wave supporting Sullivan isn’t a surprise. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska campaigns expect some election results to shift as remaining ballots are counted. They disagree how much.," 5 Nov. 2020 The report that there are no design changes suggests Apple’s pitch next week may be mainly about performance or battery life rather than making machines thinner—at least as far as this first wave is concerned. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "Report: The first Apple Silicon Macs will be the MacBook Pro and Air," 3 Nov. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of wave


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun (1)

1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

1942, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for wave


Middle English, from Old English wafian to wave with the hands; akin to Old English wæfan to clothe and perhaps to Old English wefan to weave

Noun (2)

Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about wave

Time Traveler for wave

Time Traveler

The first known use of wave was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for wave

Last Updated

19 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Wave.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wave. Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for wave


How to pronounce Wave (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of wave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to move your hand or something held in your hand usually in a repeated motion in order to signal or greet someone
: to float, shake, or move back and forth because of wind
: to move (something) back and forth



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

: an area of moving water that is raised above the main surface of an ocean, a lake, etc.
: something that has the shape or movement of a wave
: a usually repeated movement of your hand or of something held in your hand especially as a signal or greeting


\ ˈwāv How to pronounce wave (audio) \
waved; waving

Kids Definition of wave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to move (as the hand) to and fro as a signal or in greeting
2 : to move (something) back and forth The Black Knight waved his lance weakly over our heads.— Jon Scieszka, Knights of the Kitchen Table
3 : to curve slightly Her hair waves naturally.
4 : to flutter with a rolling movement Flags waved in the wind.



Kids Definition of wave (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a moving ridge on the surface of water
2 : a waving motion a wave of the hand
3 : something that swells and dies away A wave of anger came over her.
4 : a rolling movement passing along a surface or through the air waves of grain
5 : a curving shape or series of curving shapes hair with waves
6 : a sudden increase in something a crime wave
7 : a motion that is somewhat like a wave in water and transfers energy from point to point sound waves


\ ˈwāv How to pronounce wave (audio) \

Medical Definition of wave

1a : a disturbance or variation that transfers energy progressively from point to point in a medium and that may take the form of an elastic deformation or of a variation of pressure, electrical or magnetic intensity, electrical potential, or temperature
b : one complete cycle of such a disturbance
2 : an undulating or jagged line constituting a graphic representation of an action an electroencephalographic wave

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on wave

What made you want to look up wave? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

A Thanksgiving Word Quiz

  • a traditional thanksgiving dinner
  • November comes from a word for which of the following numbers?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!