What does the idiom "make waves" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does make waves mean? In what situations is make waves used?

Meaning of "make waves"


The phrase “make waves” has two primary meanings. The first is to cause disruption or upset the status quo in a particular situation. It also means to be noticeable and stand out from the crowd. This can be either in a positive or a negative way.


The phrase “make waves” has been around since at least the early 19th century. Its first known usage was in an 1817 novel written by John Quincy Adams. The phrase appeared in the novel The Renegade, where Adams wrote: “I began to make some stir, and create some little waves.” The phrase is likely derived from the visual example of throwing a stone into a pond and creating waves.


The phrase “make waves” is most often used to describe someone or something that is disruptive or causes a disturbance. It can also be used to describe someone or something that stands out from the crowd in a positive way. For example, someone who stands up for what they believe in, or who is making a daring decision, can be described as “making waves”.

Example Sentences

  • My boss was not happy when I suggested a new way of doing things - I guess I made some waves.
  • He made waves at the meeting by challenging the accepted opinion.
  • She made waves when she became the first woman in her industry to be promoted to a high-level position.
  • Tom's innovative ideas are making waves in the tech industry.

The meanings of the words in the "make waves" idiom

From One Language to Another: Idioms in Translation

Translating idioms from one language to another can be a tricky task, as the cultural context behind an idiom can be difficult to capture. For example, the French phrase "avoir le cafard" translates to "to have the cockroach," which means to feel down or depressed. Similarly, the Chinese idiom "????" (j?ng d? zh? w?) translates to "frog at the bottom of a well," which refers to someone with a narrow view of the world.


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