Types of Waves

Wave is an flow or transfer of energy in the form of oscillation through a medium – space or mass. Sea waves or tides, sound which we hear, photon of light travelling and even the movement of small plants blown by the wind are all examples of different types of waves. A simple wave illustration is as follows.

Types of Waves

Types of Waves in Physics:

Different types of waves have different set of characteristics. Based on orientation of particle motion and direction of energy, there are three categories –

  • Longitudinal waves – In this type of wave, the movement of the particle are parallel to the motion of the energy i.e. the displacement of the medium is in the same direction to which the wave is moving. Example – Sound Waves, Pressure Waves.
  • Transverse waves –  When the movement of the particles are at right angles or perpendicular to the motion of the energy, then this type of wave is known as Transverse wave.  Light is an example of a transverse wave. Some of the other examples are – ‘Polarized’ waves & Electromagnetic waves.

Water waves are an example of combination of both longitudinal and transverse motions.

  • Surface waves – In this type, the particles travel in a circular motion.  These waves usually occur at interfaces. Waves in the ocean and ripples in a cup of water are examples of such waves.

Types of Waves

Let’s discuss some other types of waves which occur in our day to day lives.

  • Electromagnetic Waves – Wave of electric and magnetic fields that propagate at the speed of light through a vacuum is known an electromagnetic wave. Electromagnetic radiation consists of this type of waves.
  • Mechanical Wave – A mechanical wave is a wave that transfers energy through a medium. This is a contrast to the electromagnetic wave. Electromagnetic waves can travel longer distances with higher speed but due to the medium of transfer, mechanical waves are limited.

Types of Waves

Stay tuned with BYJU’S to learn more about types of waves, electromagnetic waves and much more.


Practise This Question

When a South pole a magnet in brought near the N pole of a freely suspended magnetic needle, it will_____.