Definition of van der Waals forces in US English:

van der Waals forces

plural noun

  • Weak, short-range electrostatic attractive forces between uncharged molecules, arising from the interaction of permanent or transient electric dipole moments.

    • ‘As the molecules are pushed closer together, the effects of small forces, such as van der Waals forces, become apparent.’
    • ‘The basic idea of the experiment is to suddenly neutralize the layer, so that the attractive van der Waals force will press the bead against the slide.’
    • ‘The van der Waals force is long range, attractive, and relatively weak.’
    • ‘The molecules in paraffin wax, on the other hand, are only held together by weak van der Waals forces.’
    • ‘His team discovered that van der Waals force helps the gecko's feet stick.’


Late 19th century: named after Johannes van der Waals (1837–1923), Dutch physicist.


van der Waals forces