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1. To cause trouble or controversy, especially that which affects the course of a situation. The merger is almost complete, so we're all just holding our collective breath that someone doesn't make waves at the last minute.
2. To do something innovative that draws a large amount of attention and makes a widespread impact on its society, industry, etc., often causing controversy in the process. The startup made waves throughout the industry by releasing a device that never needs to be charged.
Sl. to cause difficulty. (Often in the negative.) Just relax. Don't make waves. If you make waves too much around here, you won't last long.
Cause a disturbance or controversy, as in We've finally settled our differences, so please don't make waves. This expression alludes to causing turbulence in the water. [Slang; mid-1900s] Also see rock the boat.
COMMON If you make waves, you change a situation by doing things in a very different way, often in a way that disturbs some people. Maathai has a history of making waves. In 1971 she became the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a PhD. They are part of the new breed of furniture makers who are starting to make waves on the British scene. Note: You sometimes use this expression to suggest that this is making things better or more exciting.
make waves1 create a significant impression. 2 cause trouble. informal
1 1997 Spectator Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the old pros disguised as new boys and girls who are making the biggest waves.
make ˈwaves(informal) be active in a way that makes people notice you, and that may sometimes cause problems: It’s taken us a long time to find an answer to this problem, so please don’t make waves now.
tv. to cause difficulty. (Often in the negative.) If you make waves too much around here, you won’t last long.
To cause a disturbance or controversy.
make waves, to
To create a disturbance; to shake up the existing state of affairs. This twentieth-century Americanism is well on its way to clichédom. Alison Lurie used it in Love and Friendship (1962): “I think it will be best if she tells him herself . . . we don’t want to make waves.”
See also: make