I was writing a post for my company's blog talking about Open source, and wanted to wrap it up with Let's make waves.

I was pretty sure that the expression meant something like Let's replicate this, and amplify it in every new replication. Like the fact of doing something small but nice, so others join, do something else that's small too, but summing all that you end up with something big.

But a couple of colleagues told me they didn't know that phrase at all, and I couldn't find any reference to it myself.

Have I made that whole definition up from nothing? Is it a known expression? Could I have translated it from another language?

  • 6
    It sounds more like a snowball where it starts small and as it rolls, it grows. To make waves is usually used to express the idea "to stir things up", or to shake up the status quo. Nov 17, 2015 at 15:23
  • I agree with the answer and comment given so far that "let's make waves" has negative, or at least anti-establishment connotations, but I like your use of the image of waves. If you have the need/opportunity to express this notion in the future, maybe you could say: "Let's turn this ripple into a [tidal] wave/tsunami." I don't see any negativity with that usage of "wave," but out of sympathy to people who have suffered from tidal waves/tsunamis, you might want to use just "... into a wave" or maybe "... into a giant wave."
    – Papa Poule
    Nov 17, 2015 at 15:52
  • 1
    For the phrase you're looking for, it sounds like you want something that suggests starting something that will gain momentum. How about something like "Let's get the ball rolling"? Nov 17, 2015 at 23:36
  • Possibly "ripple effect," a situation in which one event causes a series of other events to happen?
    – LexieLou
    Nov 18, 2015 at 4:02

3 Answers 3


Perhaps you've got [have] a ripple effect at the back of your mind!

a ripple effect

if something has a ripple effect, it affects something else, which then affects other things

Court rulings often have a ripple effect, spreading into areas of law that weren't part of the original cases.

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary

You'd want 'Let's create / produce a ripple effect!'

  • Oh my. I've just found that ripple translates to onda in Spanish - which in turn can be translated to wave. So the idiom doesn't have the same meaning as I thought, but it that concept behind. Aug 27, 2019 at 5:44

"Make waves" is a well-known English idiom, and it can have several meanings, but I don't think it fits the described context:

make waves: to cause problems by making suggestions or criticisms

(Macmillan English Dictionary)

makes waves: to disturb the status quo

(Webster's Unabridged)

make waves: create a significant impression

he has already made waves as a sculptor

(Oxford Dictionaries)

UPDATE: At the moment I cannot think of a suitable idiom for your intended meaning. I think Edwin's "ripple effect" captures one aspect of it, but I'm not sure "let's create a ripple effect" sounds like a good motivational line, which seems to be important.

You mentioned the end result of the open-source community effort would be "something big" (i.e. a popular, successful open source project or initiative.)

Let me suggest a different water-related idiom that basically means "make famous" or "attract attention": make a splash.

attract a great deal of attention

(Oxford Dictionary)

Take a look at the open source rookies that made a splash in the past year


If this fits your purpose, you could end the post with "Let's make a splash together!"

  • 2
    +1 Yes. As in dropping a pebble into a perfectly smooth pool of water, disturbing the image, breaking it up, creating waves of disturbance that spread outwards from the centre.
    – Marv Mills
    Nov 17, 2015 at 15:48
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    I agree; the third definition certainly doesn't indicate a negative flavour, and whethe the second does is opinion-based. Nov 17, 2015 at 16:45
  • 'Disrupt' might be a better term than 'disturb' for indicating a neutrality of the second definition. Maybe not.
    – user1359
    Nov 17, 2015 at 17:54
  • @user1359 Well, it's a dictionary definition, the Webster guys came up with it. Personally, I think in the context of technology "disrupt" may be stronger, as it implies huge market changes -- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology
    – A.P.
    Nov 17, 2015 at 18:22

Waves only amplify when you apply them at a resonant frequency. Snowballs get bigger no matter which snowy hill you roll them down.

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