I know there probably isn’t one word that covers that entire experience (although if there is, I’m definitely interested). I mainly want to know what the word is for when water is forced around. For example, when you hit water with your hand and it splashes water out. What is that splashing called? The best I can come up with is scattering, but I don’t like it.

Example sentence: The water smashed against the rock and scattered around it.

Is there a better word than scatter?

I know I'm going to be asked if I did any research. I tried, but because I can't figure out the word I'm looking for--although it's on the tip of my tongue--I can't figure out what to search for.

  • 1
    When I hit the water with my hand for the purpose of directing the displaced water onto someone they, they just say "Quit splashing." You can also get hit by "spray" coming off the rocks after a wave hits it or near the bottom of a waterfall.
    – Jim
    Apr 12, 2018 at 19:14
  • Water flows over or around or under a rock. That said, water does not scatter.
    – Lambie
    Apr 12, 2018 at 19:21
  • The water smashed against the rock and flowed/surged around it.
    – Greybeard
    Oct 5, 2022 at 16:51
  • There's a big difference between water hitting something (like a sea wall) and sending lots of spray in the air, and water flowing around something (like a rock or a person's legs).
    – Stuart F
    Oct 6, 2022 at 13:03

6 Answers 6


I'll say the word is displacement. Edit: If the water hits something and moves around, it could be diverted, channeled, or rerouted.

From Britannica: "When an object enters water, it pushes out water to make room for itself. The object pushes out a volume of water that is equal to its own volume. This is called displacement."

From Oxford: Diverted 1. cause (someone or something) to change course or turn from one direction to another. "a scheme to divert water from the river to irrigate agricultural land"

  • 1
    It doesn't really cover the case of water hitting an object and then flowing around it. Oct 5, 2022 at 19:03
  • Thanks. I was thinking of the reference to a hand hitting water and wound up answering that. Oct 5, 2022 at 19:15
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Oct 5, 2022 at 19:39
  • Why a bot? Geesus, so annoying. Such a good answer. :)
    – Lambie
    Oct 5, 2022 at 20:27

At least in your example, water, as a wave, diffracts. I believe diffract would answer your question.

  • 2
    Or, possibly ripples.
    – user22542
    Apr 12, 2018 at 19:09
  • Welcome to English Language & Usage! Could you explain why you believe the word is suitable? Perhaps you could cite a definition or usage example that suggests it fits the question's needs.
    – Bread
    Apr 12, 2018 at 21:06
  • 1
    Hello. I was thinking that the asker was looking for a specific word that focused on the "going around" aspect in relation to the obstacle. This is the action of a wave in physical terms. I probably was thinking too hard.
    – user22542
    Apr 12, 2018 at 21:23
  • Oh no, I didn't mean to suggest that your answer is wrong at all. It's a great suggestion, imho. However it's beneficial to persuade voters to agree with you somehow (to earn + votes). And the best way is by providing some authoritative corroboration, using references and/or citing examples of usage. I'm voting it up, now that I have the opportunity to do so. I certainly would not have down-voted it: someone else did that. But I should have included this link in my first comment, because my intent is only to help and make you feel welcome: english.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer
    – Bread
    Apr 12, 2018 at 22:02
  • Well, thank you, Bread. I am still trying to understand the Stack exchanges and how they work. I asked an astronomy question a week or so ago, and got such an immediate and excellent response that I was impressed. So, I have been exploring how it works and trying to contribute a little. It may take me a while to understand the ins and outs, so be patient. I appreciate the information.
    – user22542
    Apr 12, 2018 at 22:33

Possibly surge around something, or slosh around something (both more forceful than the rippling and splashing in the other answers) the water can slosh around **in * something (like in a bucket that is being carried by someone running) or it can slosh around something, (like a wave sloshing around a stone at the beach) - as with the 'surge around something', no splashing (no droplets) are involved.


The water pounded the rock, then dispersed into the ocean.


Nearly 50 people are still missing after the storm pounded the coast.


to cause to break up


Impinge would serve in a techie sense.

strike. "the gases impinge on the surface of the liquid"
Google definiton of impinge

  • No. '... the word is for when water is forced around ....' Synonyms of hit, strike are not a topic for ELU. Jan 8, 2022 at 13:32

According to the literature (like this dissertation), water shears when it encounters an obstacle.

From M-W Unabridged:

shear, n.

5a : a strain resulting from applied forces that cause or tend to cause contiguous parts of a body to slide relatively to each other in a direction parallel to their plane of contact specifically : the ratio of the relative displacement of these parts to the distance between them

5b: the stress giving rise to this strain — see shearing stress

  • There is wind shear but I never heard of water shear...
    – Lambie
    Oct 5, 2022 at 20:26
  • @Lambie Same concept; both are fluids from a physical standpoint.
    – Gnawme
    Oct 5, 2022 at 21:16

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