So I recently searched up "em wave transverse proof", and I understood it pretty well enough I think.

After that, I just started to wonder if all waves are either transverse/longitudinal. If there are waves that are neither one of them, how do we put that in mathematical notation?

  • $\begingroup$ There are also torsional waves. $\endgroup$
    – M. Enns
    Feb 25, 2018 at 3:36
  • $\begingroup$ Oop.... Should've googled it up really. Thank you :D $\endgroup$
    – GimmeCats
    Feb 25, 2018 at 3:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A slinky can have both transverse and longitudinal waves, and they can be superposed. However, I think they propagate at different speeds. $\endgroup$
    – user4552
    Feb 28, 2018 at 5:56

2 Answers 2


Short answer: no.

For example, gravity waves (i.e. ripples) on the surface of a liquid have both transverse and longitudinal motion, so they are not purely either.


I was wondering if there is a difference between a transverse and longitudinal wave...

Imagine a rubber rod, it flexible to the sides so you can bend it and oscillate it like a string if you do it fast enough. That would be its transverse wave behavior.

Now the same rubber rod can be compressed or decompressed and that would be its longitudinal wave behavior.

Now... what is the difference? in the longitudinal the atoms are contracting and expanding toward each other. And in the transverse movement it is doing the same but at the same time meaning when it bends some part of the radius is been compressed and the outer side is been expanded, but in the end, it is the same.

It could be said that the transverse wave is a complex longitudinal wave.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.