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[tsoo-nah-mee] /tsʊˈnɑ mi/
an unusually large sea wave produced by a seaquake or undersea volcanic eruption.
Also called seismic sea wave.
1905-10; < Japanese, equivalent to tsu harbor (earlier tu) + nami wave
Related forms
[tsoo-nah-mik, -nam-ik] /tsʊˈnɑ mɪk, -ˈnæm ɪk/ (Show IPA),
Can be confused Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tsunamis
  • The slow but violent collision of these three plates produces spectacular earthquakes, tsunamis, and eruptions.
  • If these tsunamis of particles head our way, they interact with our own planet's magnetic field.
  • The geology indicates it's been battered by eons of tsunamis and earthquakes.
  • Seeding the ocean with pressure sensors to detect tsunamis before they strike can be expensive and time consuming.
  • Fortunately, while tsunamis are fast, they are not as fast-moving as the earthquakes themselves.
  • The real destructive power of tsunamis lies not in excessive height, but in their wavelength.
  • The only known exceptions are rushing river-gully floods, tsunamis, and other no-survival situations.
  • Wars, tsunamis, aids nothing is going to restore balance.
  • Rogue waves are not tsunamis, which are set in motion by earthquakes.
  • We also must ignore tsunamis in the climate debate, since they are caused by seismic events, unrelated to atmospheric variables.
British Dictionary definitions for tsunamis


noun (pl) -mis, -mi
a large, often destructive, sea wave produced by a submarine earthquake, subsidence, or volcanic eruption. Sometimes incorrectly called a tidal wave
a sudden increase in or overwhelming number or volume of: the tsunami of Olympic visitors
Word Origin
from Japanese, from tsu port + nami wave
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tsunamis



1897, from Japanese tsunami, from tsu "harbor" + nami "waves."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tsunamis in Science
A very large ocean wave that is caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption and often causes extreme destruction when it strikes land. Tsunamis can have heights of up to 30 m (98 ft) and reach speeds of 950 km (589 mi) per hour. They are characterized by long wavelengths of up to 200 km (124 mi) and long periods, usually between 10 and 60 minutes. See Note at tidal wave.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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tsunamis in Culture
tsunami [(tsooh-nah-mee)]

A large wave on the ocean, usually caused by an undersea earthquake, a volcanic eruption, or coastal landslide. A tsunami can travel hundreds of miles over the open sea and cause extensive damage when it encounters land. Also called tidal waves.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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