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

  • noun The regularly occurring elevation of the ocean's surface water at high tide.
  • noun An unusual, often destructive rise of water along the seashore, as from onshore storm winds or a combination of wind and high tide.
  • noun A tsunami. Not in scientific use.
  • noun An overwhelming manifestation; a flood.

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

  • noun an unusually high wave from the sea, sometimes reaching far inland and causing great destruction, and usually caused by some event, such as an earthquake, far from the shore. In Japan, such a wave is called a tsunami.
  • noun an unusually large quantity of items or events requiring attention and causing strain on the capacity to handle them.

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

  • noun A large and sudden rise and fall in the tide.
  • noun proscribed A large, sudden, and disastrous wave of water caused by a tremendous disturbance in the ocean; a tsunami. (See Usage notes below.)
  • noun figuratively A sudden and powerful surge.
  • noun archaic A crest of ocean water; a wave.
  • noun oceanography A crest of ocean water resulting from tidal forces.

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

  • noun a wave resulting from the periodic flow of the tides that is caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon and sun
  • noun an unusual (and often destructive) rise of water along the seashore caused by a storm or a combination of wind and high tide
  • noun an overwhelming manifestation of some emotion or phenomenon


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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


    Sorry, no example sentences found.


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

  • Has anyone else noticed that since Dec 26, 2004, tsunami has almost wholely usurped tidal wave, the latter now existing only in the metaphorical sense - a tidal wave of immigrants, a tidal wave of information, a tidal wave of money, praise, cheese?

    April 3, 2008

  • Well, tsunamis have nothing to do with tides. The term was a misnomer from the start.

    April 3, 2008

  • ... a tidal wave of cheese?

    April 3, 2008

  • That sure sounds like an invitation to include some fine dairy poetry from James McIntyre, Canada's famed Chaucer of cheese:

    Ode on the Mammoth Cheese

    (Weight over seven thousand pounds).

    We have seen thee, queen of cheese,

    Lying quietly at your ease,

    Gently fanned by evening breeze,

    Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

    All gaily dressed soon you'll go

    To the great Provincial show,

    To be admired by many a beau

    In the city of Toronto.

    Cows numerous as a swarm of bees,

    Or as the leaves upon the trees,

    It did require to make thee please.

    And stand unrivalled, queen of cheese.

    May you not receive a scar as

    We have heard that Mr. Harris

    Intends to to send you off as far as

    The great world's show at Paris.

    Of the youth beware of these,

    For some of them might rudely squeeze

    And bite your cheek, then songs or glees

    We could not sing, oh! queen of cheese.

    We'rt thou suspended from balloon,

    You'd cast a shade even at noon,

    Folks would think it was the moon

    About to fall and crush them soon.

    April 3, 2008

  • I'm glad someone else pointed that out, chained_bear. ;-)

    April 3, 2008

  • Wow. *wipes tear* That's beautiful, sionnach. *is now hungry*

    April 3, 2008

  • There's more McIntyre poetry at cheese.

    April 3, 2008

  • oh dear. I'm losing it. Guilty of having inflicted the mammoth cheese ode not once, but twice, on Wordie members.

    But, you know, it does have a certain irresistible quality to its sheer awfulness. I've always felt that McIntyre beats out McGonagall in the world's worst poetry sweepstakes. Though it's a close call.

    April 3, 2008

  • Tidal wave of cheese.

    n.b. I realise the term is a misnomer (although that doesn't invalidate it for me). I just thought it was interesting that after the big one in '04, everyone suddenly got all correct about it. As if the misnomer became somehow disrespectful.

    April 3, 2008

  • Maybe I hang with anal-retentive idiots, but we were getting all correct about it well before 2004. *wonders about her friends*

    April 3, 2008

  • And my Google search shows at number 1:


    a tidal wave of cheese?" more... about 5 hours ago, on bugs, chained_bear said:. "*liking the idea of oroboros wielding pruning shears on Wordie*" more. ... - 41k - Cached - Similar pages"

    We're good. Very good.

    April 4, 2008

  • Of course, bilby! Didn't you know that we were planning to take over the universe? ;-)

    And Prolagus, are you trying to drag us back into the Great Nipple Debate?

    April 4, 2008

  • I wouldn't dare.

    |. | .|

    April 4, 2008

  • (Edit: It appears deinonychus beat me to the punch.)

    February 4, 2012