Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Tides and Waves

Tides vs Waves

Waves and tides are easily confused with each other since these two naturally occurring events are used interchangeably by many people. Actually, you can’t blame them because waves and tides share similar characteristics. Thus, to the uninformed, the two will appear the same especially without knowing the scientific theory behind the two phenomena.

To begin, tides are the elevation and fall of huge amounts of water. The cause of such is the different interaction of gravitational forces exerted between the moon, the Earth and, to some degree, the sun. By contrast, waves are simply the effects of powerful winds raging on oceanic surfaces and even on some other bodies of water like lakes. The cause for the rise and fall of water is probably the single most important difference that the two have.

It is also interesting to know that in a single day, the ocean normally witnesses a series of two low tides and two high tides. During a full moon or a new moon, a spring tide (a very strong tide) will occur because of the alignment of the planet to the sun and moon. A neap tide (the weak tide) happens when the lunar and solar gravitational forces are perpendicular to each other. This phenomenon is evident during a quarter moon.

Waves are usually smaller ripples of water that still have the potential to become huge depending on many other factors. Whenever waves are generated by the wind on the ocean surface, this is called an ocean surface wave. Under normal circumstances, the wind will have a hard time making a noticeable effect on a perfectly calm and quiet sea. But as it starts to slide over the water surface, the sea will already exhibit motion.

In this connection, waves are formed when a combination of wind and water variables interact. These variables include: the speed of the wind, the distance of the area where the wind slides, duration of the blowing of the wind, how deep the body of water is, and also the total lateral distance influenced by the fetch. In simple terms, the stronger the wind is and the longer the wind blows, the bigger the waves will be. On the contrary, tides are made by a rising sea level and then water has risen to its highest elevation (reaching high tide) by the action of heavenly gravitational forces for an extended period of time (usually several hours). When the sea level starts to drop for several hours, water appears not to fall thus attaining low tide.


1.Tides are formed because of the interaction of the gravitational forces between the Earth, the moon, and the sun.
2.Waves are formed because of the gusting or raging force exerted by the wind on the water surface.
3.Tides are usually generated at the deep oceanic regions while waves are usually seen at shallower areas of the sea.
4.Tides are made by the rising and falling sea levels with the action of gravity while waves are formed when several factors relating to the wind and water interact with each other.

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