What does exactly "wave" mean in the above sentence? I would be grateful if you make a reference to one of the Oxford, Longman, Webster, or Cambridge dictionaries as well with regard to its sense. Here is the context:

The owl then fluttered onto the floor and began to attack Hagrid's coat. "Don't do that". Harry tried to wave the owl out of the way, but it snapped its beak fiercely at him and carried on savaging the coat.

  • 1
    Have you used a dictionary to find the meaning of the word "wave"? Are there any definitions that you think are close to what this might mean? Here's the Oxford page on it: en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/wave
    – Catija
    May 24, 2017 at 22:23
  • Yes, I have checked Oxford, Webster, and Longman. The nearest thing I could find was the 1.3 section in Oxford: instruct (someone) to move in a particular direction, but that is only related to humans, not animals.
    – Diamond
    May 24, 2017 at 22:29
  • There is no requirement that "someone" be a human...
    – Catija
    May 24, 2017 at 22:34
  • So, why Oxford hasn't added "something" to its definition? By the way, do you mean that the correct sense of "wave" is the above-mentioned meaning?
    – Diamond
    May 24, 2017 at 22:37
  • Imagine a gnat flying around your head, being annoying... if you use your hand to try and chase the gnat away, you can be said to be "waving your hand at the gnat". Harry is doing the same... trying to get the owl to stop attacking the coat by waving a hand at it... so you might say that definition 1.1 is more appropriate in this sense.
    – Catija
    May 24, 2017 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


Does your library subscribe to the OED? My local library does, and I see this definition:

wave, v. 10 a. To signify (something) by a wave of the hand or arm. b. (a) To motion (a person, etc.) aside, away, back, in, off by a movement of the hand, etc.; also with preps. from, over, to, etc.

I understood it as describing Harry shooing the bird by waving. Wave also has connotations of flapping (wings or hands), so I see it was a deliberate choice to evoke the repeated flapping of both bird and human in the reader's mind.

  • 1. the OED is firmly descriptivist, and rigorously backs its definitions with quotes of actual usage. No dictionary is definitive, since words' meanings are flexible and change over time. 2. Not all dictionaries with 'Oxford' in their name are created equal; ones with 'Oxford English Dictionary' are generally considered the canonical reference (in the UK) May 24, 2017 at 23:55
  • No, I only have access to this free online dictionary: en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/wave and didn't find that definition there.
    – Diamond
    May 25, 2017 at 12:08
  • @user3257464 ok, that's an Oxford University Press publication (good), but it has around 100,000 entries vs. the OED's 845,318 senses in almost 300,000 entries. You're more likely to fins the exact meansing you're looking for in the OED rather than it. A personal subscription costs hundreds of dollars a year though… I strongly recommend you check with your local library system, and they may already have a license allowing their patrons to use an institutional subscription. May 25, 2017 at 13:03

Harry is flicking his hand forcefully towards the owl to scare the owl so that it moves out of the way. I imagine that his arm is extended too.

This is the same thing you might do to your dog (or really any animal or even people) when it is bothering you and you want it to leave. In the US, you might say "Shoo! Go away!"

Here's a gif to get the idea.

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