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


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

  • 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). Commented Jul 11, 2011 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
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 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. Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 17:31
  • That's called "pinking" - you do it with "pinking shears". 7sg below got the right answer first.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 19:31
  • I assume we're not discussing "rolling papers" here...
    – oosterwal
    Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 3:02

5 Answers 5


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

  • 1
    Just because it's not a sawtooth wave doesn't mean it's not a sawtooth pattern.
    – phenry
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 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. Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 17:11
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    @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
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 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
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 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
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 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:

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.

  • +1 for dancetty (being a geek I picture this as using a remote terminal while listening to a bit of techno :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jul 12, 2011 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.


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?

  • 1
    I think sawtooth is a good alternative.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 16:26
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    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. Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 17:05

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

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