from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To rise and move in a billowing or swelling manner.
  • intransitive verb To roll or be tossed about on waves, as a boat.
  • intransitive verb To move like advancing waves.
  • intransitive verb To increase suddenly.
  • intransitive verb To improve one's performance suddenly, especially in bettering one's standing in a competition.
  • intransitive verb Nautical To slip around a windlass. Used of a rope.
  • intransitive verb To loosen or slacken (a cable) gradually.
  • noun A powerful wave or swell of water.
  • noun A sudden rushing motion like that of a great wave.
  • noun The forward and backward motion of a ship subjected to wave action.
  • noun A sudden onrush or increase.
  • noun A period of intense effort that improves a competitor's standing, as in a race.
  • noun A sudden, transient increase or oscillation in electric current or voltage.
  • noun Astronomy A brief increase in the intensity of solar activity such as X-ray emission, solar wind, solar flares, and prominences.
  • noun The part of a windlass into which the cable surges.
  • noun A temporary release or slackening of a cable.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To rise and fall, as a ship on the waves; especially, to ride near the shore; ride at anchor.
  • To rise high and roll, as waves: literally or figuratively.
  • Nautical: To slip back: as, the cable surges.
  • To let go a piece of rope suddenly; slack a rope up suddenly when it renders round a pin, a winch, windlass, or capstan.
  • In electricity, to oscillate violently: said of oscillatory rushes of current.
  • To cause to rise and swell forth with a billowy motion.
  • noun A spring; a fountain; a source of water.
  • noun A large wave or billow; a great rolling swell of water; also, such waves or swells collectively: literally or figuratively.
  • noun The act of surging, or of heaving in an undulatory manner.
  • noun In ship-building, the tapered part in front of the whelps, between the chocks of a capstan, on which a rope may surge.
  • noun Any change of barometric level which is not due to the passage of an area of low pressure or to diurnal variation.
  • noun In electricity, a sudden rush of current; specifically, the violent oscillations which may occur in alternating-current circuits when the conditions for resonance are fulfilled, or which may be set up in conductors by the inductive action of lightning.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun obsolete A spring; a fountain.
  • noun A large wave or billow; a great, rolling swell of water, produced generally by a high wind.
  • noun The motion of, or produced by, a great wave.
  • noun The tapered part of a windlass barrel or a capstan, upon which the cable surges, or slips.
  • intransitive verb To swell; to rise hifg and roll.
  • intransitive verb (Naut.) To slip along a windlass.
  • transitive verb (Naut.) To let go or slacken suddenly, as a rope; ; also, to slacken the rope about (a capstan).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A sudden rush, flood or increase which is transient.
  • noun The maximum amplitude of a vehicles' forward/backward oscillation
  • noun electricity A sudden electrical spike or increase of voltage and current.
  • noun nautical The swell or heave of the sea. (FM 55-501).
  • verb intransitive To rush, flood, or increase suddenly.
  • verb To accelerate forwards, particularly suddenly.
  • verb transitive, nautical To slack off a line.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a sudden forceful flow
  • noun a sudden or abrupt strong increase
  • noun a large sea wave
  • verb rise rapidly
  • verb rise and move, as in waves or billows


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Probably French sourdre, sourge- (from Old French) and French surgir, to rise (from Old French, to cast anchor, from Old Catalan), both from Latin surgere, to rise : sub-, from below; see sub– + regere, to lead straight; see reg- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English surgen, from possibly from Middle French sourgir, from Old French surgir ("to rise, ride near the shore, arrive, land"), from Old Catalan surgir, from Latin surgere, contr. of surrigere, subrigere ("transitive lift up, raise, erect; intransitive rise, arise, get up, spring up, grow, etc."), from sub ("under") + regere ("to stretch"); see regent.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word surge.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "First, the surge was not primarily responsible for the drop in sectarian violence in Iraq. It played a role, but was far less important than the simple, grim fact that the Shiite militias in Baghdad had already succeeded in ethnically cleansing the city. This was established by a team of UCLA geographers who analyzed night-light signatures in the city. They found that night lights in Sunni neighborhoods declined dramatically just before the February 2007 surge and never came back. 'Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning,' John Agnew, a UCLA professor of geography and the study's lead author, told Science Daily. 'By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left ... The surge really seems to have been a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.'"

    - Gary Kamiya, 'Remember Iraq?', 30 Sep 2008.

    October 1, 2008

  • There is a place on the University of Florida campus called "The Surge Area". I still haven't figured out what it means, and am FTL (far too lazy) to find out.

    September 25, 2009

  • "The innocent moon, which nothing does but shine,

    Moves all the labouring surges of the world."

    Francis Thompson (1859-1907) Sister Songs i.

    September 25, 2009

  • "The Atlantic surge

    Pours in among the stormy Hebrides."

    James Thomson (1700-1748) The Seasons. Autumn line 864.

    September 25, 2009

  • The sky suffered a particle surge, briefly went a deeper blue. Sweat bloomed in my palm as I took the phone. From "The Last Werewolf" by Glen Duncan.

    March 23, 2012