tsunami / 津波
Though everyone knows what it means, not everyone realizes that the word “tsunami” itself is a Japanese word. It is a compound made of two characters which mean “harbor” and “wave” respectively. Though tsunami have been recorded all over the world since ancient times, the word itself seems to have first been used in the English language in the late 1890s.
Tsunami are devastating waves generally caused by offshore earthquakes. The reason the power of a 30 foot tsunami is so much different from a 30 foot wave at a surfing contest is simple. Most waves, even 30 foot monster surf waves, are created by wind blowing over the top of the water. Tsunami, on the other hand, are created when the ocean shakes. It’s the difference between the ripples made when you blow on a cup of tea to cool it, and the ripples made when you knock the teacup with your elbow.