Wave or waive? Waver or waiver?

03 Jun

After a short hiatus, the Troublesome Pairs are back! Today we’re looking at one that I see getting mixed up very often one way round, and not so often the other way – which is actually often the way.

A wave is a movement back or forth – whether it’s a hand, water or something in one’s hand that’s waving (“She gave the steam train a big wave as it chuffed past”). It’s also the signal made by that movement. The verb means to move back and forth while remaining itself fixed position (“I always wave at steam trains, and other kinds of train, too”; “She waved a stick at the dog to attract its attention”). Other meanings follow the movement of a wave, e.g. a light curl in the hair or what the dictionaries rather soberly call a ridged mass of water. It can also be a sudden increase in a phenomenon eg. a wave of copy-cat head shavings.

To waive, on the other hand, and this is the one that gets written “wave” quite often, is to refrain from claiming or insisting on – “Because you don’t have much income, I will waive my fee”, “he waived his right to anonymity”. A waiver is an act or instance of waiving a right or claim or a document recording this – “Before you drive this steam train, please sign this waiver to absolve us from blame if you get covered in soot”. A waver, however, is someone who’s waving.

“He waved the waiver in glee – ‘I don’t have to pay the fee!'”

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


Tags: , , ,

6 responses to “Wave or waive? Waver or waiver?

  1. Michelle Louring

    June 3, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Well, I just learned a new word today!
    I had no idea there was anything called ‘waive’ and I certainly never spelled ‘wave’ that way! It still surprises me, however, that people with English as their first language can have so much trouble mixing words together when they write. I rarely have that problem and I’m Danish 🙂
    Great post!


    • Liz at Libro

      June 3, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Yes, it is fascinating – as someone who works a great deal with non-native English speakers, I find that they and native English speakers make very different mistakes. Most of my Troublesome Pairs are ones that native English speakers have trouble with, although some seem to work for everyone (then/than is a classic). I’m glad you enjoyed the post and learned a new word, anyway, and thanks for posting a comment!


      • Michelle Louring

        June 3, 2013 at 9:20 am

        I used to have a lot of trouble with then/when, but luckily it’s something I learned.
        I think many of the mistakes native speakers make is with words that sound alike when you speak them… Someone like me will never do that, since I rarely speak English, but write it everyday.
        Still, it’s interesting that you get such a different relationship to spelling in your second language than spelling in your native one(I must admit that I make way more spelling mistakes when writing in Danish…)


  2. Liz at Libro

    June 3, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Yes, indeed, it’s probably something to do with your first language being unconscious and your second and subsequent languages being conscious. I wonder if someone completely bilingual will make the same sorts of mistake in both languages. There is probably research on that!


    • Michelle Louring

      June 3, 2013 at 9:27 am

      Yes, that could be fun to see 🙂 It’s amazing how many possibilities there is for exploring languages!


  3. Paul Rafferty

    June 5, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Reblogged this on ENGLISH LANGUAGE REVIEW .



I love hearing from my readers - do please leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: