Meaning And Symbolism Of Waves

When you think of waves, one of the first things that would come to mind would probably be the ocean. But waves are not limited to just bodies of water and have much broader meanings than this.

In simple terms, a wave is any disturbance that transfers energy from one point to another through some sort of elastic or pliable medium.

Aside from the waves on the ocean, other examples are sound waves, radio waves, and even human waves that are sometimes demonstrated by the crowd in large-scale events.

Symbolism Of Waves

What Do Waves Symbolize?

The nature and appearance of a wave give it different meanings and interpretations in culture, literature, and society. Most of them use ocean waves as a visual reference because they are widely recognized by everyone, but some refer to waves in general. Here are the ten meanings and symbolisms attached to a wave:

1. Power And Strength

Because waves are driven by energy, they show a force in their movement.

Sometimes, this energy can be calm and soothing, but more often than not, they showcase power and strength. For example, huge ocean waves can destroy ships or cause cracks in solid rock.

Waves can also become an unstoppable and uncontrollable force, demonstrating sheer power in their movements. They also tend to gain strength and momentum as they progress forward. This represents how our thoughts, decisions, and actions could develop and become stronger over time.

Related Article: Meaning And Symbolism Of Stairs

2. Transformation

A wave is constantly in motion, and it changes the original appearance of its medium during the process.

It is never static and is a constant yet relentless flow that transforms whatever it touches. Even the hardest rocks at the ocean’s edge cannot escape its effects.

As such, waves can also represent the changes we go through in life. This is illustrated in the book “To the Lighthouse” by English author Virginia Woolf.

Waves serve as reminders that life is meant to be lived, which is why it is always moving forward. Don’t be afraid of change. Accept it, or better yet, learn how to use it to your advantage.

Related Article: Meaning And Symbolism Of The Moonflower

3. Conformity And Individuality

Conformity happens when individuals adjust their own behavior, attitudes, and belief systems according to the norms of the majority, even when they initially thought otherwise.

This is mainly driven by a desire to fit in and be accepted by the community. Social pressure can also influence the opinion of the majority.

However, overly strong waves can lead to destruction, and it is the same in society. Thus, you must retain your individuality. This will pave the way for healthy dissent, which is needed to maintain balance and fairness in the community.

Related Article: Meaning And Symbolism Of Gates

4. Hope

Waves can also symbolize hope.

Tall ocean waves will block your vision, and you cannot see anything behind them or beyond the gigantic wall of water in front of you. This may make you feel lost and alone.

However, remind yourself that no wave will last forever. It will end at some point, and after that, you will be able to see the vast ocean waiting in front of you.

Sometimes, you may be stumped by a problematic situation and feel like there is no way out. Just remember that after waves subside, the waters resume its usual calm. This shows that a better future will always await you after overcoming challenges or calamities.

Related Article: Acorn Symbolism And Meaning

5. Rebirth And New Beginnings

One distinct characteristic of waves is that they repeat in time.

You can easily observe this in the behavior of ocean waves, sound waves, and sometimes even in the human waves performed in events. Once the energy transmission is over, the wave loses momentum and eventually fades away. When it’s over, the calm resumes and everything resets until the next wave starts again.

This represents your life journey and the challenges you encounter along the way. It demonstrates that death is not an ending but a pause before a new life begins. The wave will initially create ripples on the surface, disturbing the peace and creating fluctuations along the way.

Related Article: Meaning and Symbolism of 8 ball

6. Life cycles

All living things go through a life cycle, which refers to the stages of growth that they go through for the duration of their existence.

For humans, the life cycle has six main stages, which start from when the fetus is formed until they reach old age. The progression of these stages is similar to the build-up of a wave. It usually starts small, gains momentum over time, reaches its peak, and then becomes small again before it disappears.

Similarly, you begin your life as a baby that does not know anything and has to rely on others to survive. Adulthood is the peak when you have all the skills and tools you need to stay on your own. Finally, you reach old age and return to a state where you need to be taken care of before you eventually leave this world.

7. Challenges And Trials

An ocean wave can sometimes be hard to deal with, especially when it is fierce and strong.

It can wipe out everything in its path, leaving destruction behind. But it is not necessarily evil. It is just something that happens as part of nature. While you can’t do anything to stop it, you can minimize the damage by making ample preparations for yourself and the people around you.

In the novel “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, these waves are used to represent the trials that the main character must face. In the same manner, you will encounter many challenges in life.

Some are easy to overcome, while others can destroy you and make you feel like giving up. However, you need to keep going and pushing forward because that is how you can survive in this world and maybe even come out stronger.

8. Strength In Numbers

Waves can also represent unity in different ways.

In the case of the ocean wave, a drop of water will barely make a ripple in the ocean but gather them together, and it will have the power to rock a boat or create cracks on a boulder. It is the same with a human wave.

One person doing it alone will barely get attention, but if people do it together, they create a beautiful scene worth remembering. Both examples show that there is strength in numbers and that you should know when to use this to your advantage.

Some problems and issues are too big that the efforts of one individual can have little impact but get people to work as one, and they can enforce huge changes that could help the world.

9. Courage And Perseverance

Ocean waves look daunting and impressive, even from afar.

It takes a lot to face it head-on, as surfers do. Some people would choose to run away from it, despite knowing it is futile. Others, however, would rather confront it or do something about it. They may slip and fall due to the force of energy, but they will keep standing up until they succeed.

Likewise, you will face many hardships, failures, and disappointments in life. These things are inevitable, and you cannot escape from them. You cannot control them, but you can manage your response. Choosing to face the wave shows courage and perseverance, which can work to your advantage as you navigate life.

10. Passage Of Time

A wave does not stay in one place as it is always in motion due to the force of energy.

It is also fleeting and cannot be grasped within your control no matter what you do, but it also continuously ebbs and flows.

This is a reminder of how time waits for no one and will keep flowing regardless of your thoughts, actions, or decisions. Once time passes by, you can never get it back, so it is better to cherish each moment and live your life with no regrets.


The ebb and flow of waves symbolize life cycles as well as rebirth and transformation. An ocean wave, for example, would start as a small ripple and gain size and momentum before returning to its original place.

It can also represent the challenges you face and the hope that a better future is waiting once you overcome them.

At the same time, a wave’s force and impact show power in numbers. A small ripple is not likely to cause change, but a big wave can change the earth’s landscape.

However, it is also not good to always conform and follow the majority. You still need to retain your individuality so you can be the voice of reason and trigger a healthy dissent in times of need.

Skip to content