What Does Channel Surfing Mean?

Channel Surfing Meaning

Definition: To change TV channels often.

People often channel surf when they aren’t sure what they want to watch, so they flip through channels until they find something they are interested in.

Origin of Channel Surfing

This expression dates back to the latter part of the 1900s. It is related to surfing on waves in the ocean.

A surfer might go from one wave to another searching for the best one. In the same way, a TV viewer goes from one channel to another searching for the best option.

Examples of Channel Surfing

change the channelIn the first example, two friends are in the break room during their lunchtime.

Marcus: Hey, Patsy! What do you have for lunch today?

Patsy: Nothing special. Just a sandwich and some yogurt. Do you mind if I keep the TV on in here?

Marcus: Not at all! What are you watching?

Patsy: I’m not watching anything yet. I’m just channel surfing. So far it doesn’t seem like there’s anything good on.

meaning of channel surfingIn the second example, a sister is arguing with her brother on the weekend.

Angela: Hey Samson. Do you mind if I watch my show? Pass me the remote control.

Samson: No, sorry. I’m already watching the TV.

Angela: Yeah, I can see that, but you aren’t watching anything specific. You’re just channel surfing.

Samson: So? I’m still using the TV.

Angela: But you don’t even have anything in particular you want to watch!

Samson: Not yet, but I’ll find something soon. And I know I don’t want to watch your show.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about how to use Airbnb for the first time. In the excerpt, a woman expected her family to be relaxing and doing nothing. However, they actually were getting out and trying new things.

  • During our Bay Area weekend getaway, I emerged from the bathroom looking for my teenage daughter, Hannah, and my husband, Brady. Normally, in a hotel room, the loved ones you travel with are easy to find – most likely channel surfing from a queen bed. –OC Register

This excerpt is about a local actor. The article’s author noticed the actor while channel surfing, and then met him in real life.

  • About six months ago, I was channel-surfing when I came across a late 1970s rerun of the “Battle of the Network Stars.” –OC Register


The phrase channel surfing means switch from one television station to another frequently to watch multiple shows or to search for something to watch.