All waves may be categorized by relative size, or degree. Elliott discerned nine degrees of waves, from the smallest wiggle on an hourly chart to the largest wave he could assume existed from the data then available. He chose the names listed below to label these degrees, from largest to smallest:
Grand Supercycle Supercycle Cycle Primary Intermediate Minor Minute Minuette Subminuette
It is important to understand that these labels refer to specifically identifiable degrees of waves. For instance, whenwe refer to the U.S. stock market’s rise from 1932, we speak of it as a Supercycle with subdivisions as follows:
1932-1937 the first wave of Cycle degree
1937-1942 the second wave of Cycle degree
1942-1966 the third wave of Cycle degree
1966-1974 the fourth wave of Cycle degree
1974-19?? the fifth wave of Cycle degree
Cycle waves subdivide into Primary waves that subdivide into Intermediate waves that in turn subdivide into Minor and sub-Minor waves. By using this nomenclature, the analyst can identify precisely the position of a wave in the overall progression of the market, much as longitude and latitude are used to identify a geographical location. To say, “the Dow Jones Industrial Average is in Minute wave v of Minor wave 1 of Intermediate wave (3) of Primary wave  of Cycle wave I of Supercycle wave (V) of the current Grand Supercycle” is to identify a specific point along the progression of market history.
When numbering and lettering waves, some scheme such as the one shown below is recommended to differentiate the degrees of waves in the stock market’s progression:
The most desirable form for a scientist is usually something like 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, etc., with subscripts denoting degree, but it’s a nightmare to read such notations on a chart. The above tables provide for rapid visual orientation. Charts may also use color as an effective device for differentiating degree.
In Elliott’s suggested terminology, the term “Cycle” is used as a name denoting a specific degree of wave and is not intended to imply a cycle in the typical sense. The same is true of the term “Primary,” which in the past has been used loosely by Dow Theorists in phrases such as “primary swing” or “primary bull market.” The specific terminology is not critical to the identification of relative degrees, and the authors have no argument with amending the terms, although out of habit we have become comfortable with Elliott’s nomenclature.
The precise identification of wave degree in “current time” application is occasionally one of the difficult aspects of the Wave Principle. Particularly at the start of a new wave, it can be difficult to decide what degree the initial smaller subdivisions are. The main reason for the difficulty is that wave degree is not based upon specific price or time lengths. Waves are dependent upon form, which is a function of both price and time. The degree of a form is determined by its size and position relative to component, adjacent and encompassing waves.
This relativity is one of the aspects of the Wave Principle that make real time interpretation an intellectual challenge. Fortunately, the precise degree is usually irrelevant to successful forecasting since it is relative degree that matters most. Another challenging aspect of the Wave Principle is the variability of forms, as described through Lesson 9 of this course.