I don't think there's a word for it, but I remember there was a word that was somewhat used to express a similar thing.

We could say in bad English:

The wave beached on the sandy beach and then retreated back to the sea.

Honestly, this is horrible, so I was wondering if there was a single verb that expressed the idea of "beaching" and "retreating back to the sea".

2 Answers 2


This describes the whole process:
American Heritage Dictionary "lave"
2. To lap or wash against: Waves laved the shore.

Staying with the structure you started with,

The wave washed onto the sandy beach, then retreated into the sea.

(It's unusual to single out a wave that way.)

  • 4
    British English speakers would probably give you a very blank look if you used the verb 'lave' in just about any situation. Oct 22, 2020 at 6:09
  • American English speakers also would likely not know "lave".
    – David K
    Oct 22, 2020 at 12:05
  • Lave? Was there a thesaurus competition that I missed? How about the waves washed against the shore? Or simply The waves washed the shore. Washing waves wash in and then they wash out -- no need to specify that.
    – EllieK
    Oct 22, 2020 at 16:53

The action of waves rising and falling in such a way as to cause the water to touch and then retreat from a point might be called lapping:

c transitive : to flow or splash against (something) in little waves

The area where this is happening (between the high and low water marks of the waves) might be called the surf:

  • 1 : the swell of the sea that breaks upon the shore
  • 2 : the foam, splash, and sound of breaking waves

Although "lapping" usually suggests small, gentle waves or swells, and "surf" often suggests more vigorous waves and evokes the sound they make. Both are somewhat loaded with connotations and so they don't work in every case.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .