What is the difference between Transverse and Longitudinal waves?

Transverse Waves: Displacement of the medium is perpendicular to the direction of propagation of the wave.

To understand this it is good to think of a rope being held still by person B and being moved up and down by person A. The direction of propagation is from person A to B, so you will see the waves move along this way. But the displacement will be up and down.

Can travel in solids, but not in liquids and gas.

eg. Electromagnetic radiation

Longitudinal Waves: Displacement of the medium is parallel to the direction of propagation of the wave.

A good example for this is a slinky being pushed along the table, the propagation will be along the table and so will the displacement of all the 'rings'.

Can travel through all states of matter.

eg. Sound waves

Sarah R. GCSE Economics tutor, A Level Physics tutor, GCSE Physics tu...

1 year ago

Answered by Sarah, a GCSE Physics tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


£20 /hr

Samuel J.

Degree: Physics (Masters) - Manchester University

Subjects offered:Physics, Maths


“Top tutor from the renowned Russell university group, ready to help you improve your grades.”

£20 /hr

Ben T.

Degree: Engineering (Bachelors) - Cambridge University

Subjects offered:Physics, Maths+ 4 more

-Personal Statements-
-Oxbridge Preparation-

“Hi there! I’m your friendly neighbourhood Cambridge grad, brimming with tricks and enthusiasm for Maths, Sciences and French. To learn more, view my profile...”

£20 /hr

Sam T.

Degree: Mathematical Physics (Bachelors) - Edinburgh University

Subjects offered:Physics, Maths+ 1 more


“I’m studying Physics with units in Maths and Chemistry. I really enjoy helping other people find a love for those subjects even if they think they're the worst.”

About the author

£24 /hr

Sarah R.

Degree: Physics (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered:Physics, Maths+ 2 more

-Personal Statements-

“Hi! I'm Sarah and I'm a second year Physics student at the University of Exeter.  Maths and Physics have been a huge part of my education and general interests for a long time and I hope that I can pass on my knowledge and enthusiam t...”

You may also like...

Other GCSE Physics questions

The cyclist used the brakes to slow down and stop the bicycle. A constant braking force of 140 N stopped the bicycle in a distance of 24 m. Calculate the work done by the braking force to stop the bicycle. Give the unit. (3 Marks)

A single wind turbine has a maximum power output of 2 000 000 W. The wind turbine operated continuously at maximum power for 6 hours. Calculate the energy output in kilowatt-hours of the wind turbine.

Explain the difference between a battery and a cell

Why does your hair stand on end when you touch a Van de Graaff generator?

View GCSE Physics tutors

We use cookies to improve your site experience. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss