Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The title pretty much says it all. Is there a more eloquent word for a zigzag?

Edit:

Allow me to clarify, I'm referring to the shape of a zigzag, a picture is attached below. enter image description here

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by Robusto, Rhodri, JSBձոգչ, FumbleFingers, kiamlaluno Jul 13 '11 at 4:13

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
I've deleted my previous comment. As @Malvolio says, it's a sawtooth pattern (as opposed to a "sinewave", which would not have the sharp angles). –  FumbleFingers Jul 11 '11 at 17:07
    
@Fumble You are confused, now you say it is a wave, but if that is so, it is most definitely not a sawtooth. –  z7sg Ѫ Jul 11 '11 at 17:14
    
@z7sg: I said it's a pattern, not a wave. I mentioned sinewave purely to make the point about shap angles. Besides, even if I'd said sinusoidal the same would apply. Luckily OP isn't asking for the name of a strip pattern like that, with significant width. Nor is he asking about names for graph shapes, IMHO. –  FumbleFingers Jul 11 '11 at 17:31
    
That's called "pinking" - you do it with "pinking shears". 7sg below got the right answer first. –  Joe Blow Jul 11 '11 at 19:31
    
I assume we're not discussing "rolling papers" here... –  oosterwal Jul 12 '11 at 3:02

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

These objects resemble a triangle wave (not a sawtooth as others have suggested).

enter image description here

The other thing it reminds me of is pinking, although that usually describes a zig-zag edge on a piece of fabric. This material has been pinked:

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
1  
Just because it's not a sawtooth wave doesn't mean it's not a sawtooth pattern. –  phenry Jul 11 '11 at 17:07
    
You'll note that OP's pictures show quite substantial width to the lines. A triangle wave is a mathematical entity with no real concept of 'line width', so I'm afraid I still have to stick with sawtooth, which doesn't have to imply anything to do with graphing functions. –  FumbleFingers Jul 11 '11 at 17:11
1  
@phenry Sawtooth in the dictionary: "shaped like the teeth of a saw with alternate steep and gentle slopes" does not describe the object. –  z7sg Ѫ Jul 11 '11 at 17:11
1  
Saw teeth may be cut with no rake, especially when the saw cuts bidirectionally -- this is particularly true of two-man saws designed to cut seasoned (as opposed to green) wood across the grain, and of veneer saws. Pinking refers specifically to the treatment of a fabric edge to prevent or delay fraying, so while the shape is right, the word would be wrong for more general application. –  bye Jul 11 '11 at 18:25
    
@Stan I mentioned the usual meaning of pinking as an edging cut applied to fabric, however, it is not solely used on fabric. You can also pink paper. Saw blades have teeth, though the word sawtooth describes a certain shape, rather than meaning 'any shape that may be found on the blade of a saw'. –  z7sg Ѫ Jul 11 '11 at 19:23

In what way is "zig-zag" not eloquent enough for your purposes? (I'd argue that a single word can't be eloquent or non-eloquent, but that's a different subject.)

The most technical term for the zig-zag pattern in your pictures is triangle waveform. This is probably too technical for most purposes, though.

Informally at least, sawtooth can be used as a loose synonym, but that word actually refers to a different shape — right triangles instead of isosceles triangles:
sawtooth

In heraldry, a zigzag edge treatment is called indented and/or dancetty.

A more general term is jagged, but that carries connotations of unevenness.

There's also pinked, from pinking shears. This only applies to a zigzag treatment of a single edge, though, not the strips in your pictures.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for dancetty (being a geek I picture this as using a remote terminal while listening to a bit of techno :-) –  Rory Alsop Jul 12 '11 at 10:43

For the metal inlay strips in your example photograph, zigzag is probably the best word. If there were many identical strips inlayed in parallel (and "in phase", so to speak) you might get away with calling the overall effect a herringbone, but that word is best applied to a 90° zigzag created by butting rectangular shapes (as below):

enter image description here

or a similar pattern woven into cloth (as opposed to printed). It would be the resemblance to a herringbone tweed that makes the term appropriate for parallel inlays.

share|improve this answer

If it's very regular, it's a sawtooth. If it's wavy and intended as an obstacle course, it's a slalom. What's your context?

share|improve this answer
1  
I think sawtooth is a good alternative. –  KitFox Jul 11 '11 at 16:26
1  
I'd say sawtooth tends to refer to a pattern with sharp drops -- though in common speech I don't think it'd matter mcuh. In wave terms the picutre is more of a triangle wave. –  edA-qa mort-ora-y Jul 11 '11 at 17:05

The most elegant word I can think of is "alternate." But "sawtooth" and "jag" appear correct, if less elegant.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.