The idiom “make waves” is used to describe someone who is causing trouble, disrupting the status quo, or drawing attention in a way that could be seen as troublesome or revolutionary.
This idiom is often used to describe individuals who challenge established norms, question authority, or bring about change, sometimes in a disruptive or unconventional manner.
For example, if someone is challenging established practices within an organization, they might be said to be “making waves.”
Make Waves Idiom Origins
This idiom is relatively modern, with its usage traced back to the mid-20th century, particularly in reference to people effecting social and political change.
As the following historical data demonstrates, the idiom took off in the 1960s, a time of significant social change, and has continued to be a popular phrase ever since:
I do not have any evidence connecting this idiom to the surfing movement, but its rise does correlate well with the rise of surfing itself. Look at how similar the “surfing” keyword graph is from the same historical dataset (taken from books and newspapers):
15 Examples in a Sentence
- “Ever since she joined the company, she’s been making waves with her innovative ideas.”
- “The new policy is making waves among the employees, causing a lot of discussions.”
- “He’s not afraid of making waves if it means addressing important issues.”
- “The young activist is making waves with her passionate speeches on climate change.”
- “Making waves** in a traditional industry can be challenging, but it’s necessary for progress.”
- “The artist is known for making waves with his controversial installations.”
- “She’s making waves in the tech world with her groundbreaking research.”
- “The senator is making waves by pushing for comprehensive healthcare reform.”
- “By speaking out against injustice, you are making waves and inspiring change.”
- “The new CEO is making waves with his plans for restructuring the company.”
- “Making waves** can be risky, but it’s the only way to bring about meaningful change.”
- “The journalist made waves with her expose on corruption in the government.”
- “The film made waves for its representation of underrepresented communities.”
- “The scientist made waves in the academic community with his revolutionary theory.”
- “The athlete is making waves by advocating for equal pay in sports.”
1. Rock the boat
Definition: To cause trouble or disturb a peaceful situation.
In a Sentence: “He didn’t want to rock the boat, so he kept his opinions to himself.”
2. Stir the pot
Definition: To cause unrest or discord.
In a Sentence: “She’s always trying to stir the pot by spreading rumors.”
3. Upset the apple cart
Definition: To ruin a plan or event.
In a Sentence: “The sudden rainstorm really upset the apple cart for the outdoor concert.”
4. Break the mold
Definition: To do something in a new and different way.
In a Sentence: “The inventor broke the mold with his revolutionary design.”
5. Go against the grain
Definition: To act contrary to what is customary or expected.
In a Sentence: “His unconventional methods really go against the grain.”
6. Challenge the status quo
Definition: To question or oppose established practices.
In a Sentence: “The reformist leader aimed to challenge the status quo.”
7. Blaze a trail
Definition: To pioneer or innovate in a particular field.
In a Sentence: “The scientist blazed a trail with her research on renewable energy.”
8. Push the envelope
Definition: To go beyond the usual or accepted limits.
In a Sentence: “The artist is known for pushing the envelope with his provocative work.”
9. Think outside the box
Definition: To think creatively and unconventionally.
In a Sentence: “To solve this problem, we need to think outside the box.”
10. Turn the tables
Definition: To reverse a situation and gain the upper hand.
In a Sentence: “The underdog team turned the tables and won the championship.”
11. Throw a wrench in the works
Definition: To sabotage or cause problems for a plan or project.
In a Sentence: “The unexpected obstacle really threw a wrench in the works.”
12. Ruffle feathers
Definition: To annoy or upset people.
In a Sentence: “His blunt comments really ruffled feathers during the meeting.”
13. Shake things up
Definition: To make significant changes.
In a Sentence: “The new manager came in and really shook things up.”
14. Swim against the tide
Definition: To go against prevailing opinion or trends.
In a Sentence: “It’s not easy to swim against the tide, but it’s necessary for progress.”
15. Break new ground
Definition: To do something innovative that has not been done before.
In a Sentence: “The research team broke new ground with their groundbreaking study.”