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I'm looking for a word to replace the phrase "being tossed up and down." To be used in something like:

The tree trunk [...] between the waves.

Any suggestions?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In seas or oceans, the word "bob" is often used to describe the up and down motion:

the boat bobbed up and down

If you need something a bit more severe-sounding you could go with something like:

  • Crashed
  • Flipped
  • Tumbled
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+1 The tree trunk bobbed over the waves. None of the other alternatives work. –  Kris Nov 7 '13 at 14:26
2  
@Kris: Crashed, flipped, and tumbled could work, if the weather was rough, the seas heavy, and the tree trunk near the shore. I've stood on the beach in such weather, and objects don't bob up and down. They crash, flip, and tumble in the surf. –  J.R. Nov 7 '13 at 15:09
    
@J.R. But 'up and down' is what the OP wanted and that was both realistic and reasonable. And Oh, yes, things do 'bob up and down' on the surface. Above all, bob is the only word that inherently means an 'up and down' movement, which is what I wanted to say in the first place. –  Kris Nov 8 '13 at 5:45

Another term which fits very nicely in the context of waves is buffet:

v. buf·fet·ed, buf·fet·ing, buf·fets v.tr.

  1. To hit or beat, especially repeatedly.
  2. To strike against forcefully; batter: winds that buffeted the tent.
  3. To drive or force with or as if with repeated blows: was buffeted about from job to job by the vagaries of the economy.
  4. To force (one's way) with difficulty.

For example:

The tree trunk was buffeted by the waves.

Buffet, however, implies violence, it is not a gentle rise and fall with the swell. You would use it for a floating object caught in a storm and not in calm seas. If you are looking for something calm you can use bob, as suggested by @Ste, which means simply floating and gently rising and falling with the motion of the water.

If you are looking for something intermediate, neither battered (which can also be used instead of bufetted), nor calmly bobbing, go for jostled as suggested by @TecBrat.

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I also see buffet as hitting something repeatedly. Bobbed is a better choice since the item can bob more or less by itself –  mplungjan Nov 7 '13 at 14:53
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@mplungjan yes, I just wasn't sure whether the OP was looking for a word that conveys calm or violence. A tree trunk would not really bob in a storm, it would be buffeted by the waves. –  terdon Nov 7 '13 at 15:01

I'd suggest the word "jostled". One can say "The tree trunk jostled in the waves." or "The tree trunk was jostled by the waves".

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Try bounce

(v.i.) to rebound or reflect after striking a surface (such as the ground or the wave); to leap suddenly

The tree trunk bounced between the waves.

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For a tree trunk moving up and down on a wave of water, the word undulate is the literal answer. It means to move in a smooth, wave-like fashion.

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