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A simple methodology for the direct measurement of the thermal wavelength using a thermal-wave cavity, and its application to the evaluation of the thermal diffusivity of liquids is described. The simplicity and robustness of this technique lie in its relative measurement features for both the thermal-wave phase and cavity length, thus eliminating the need for taking into account difficult-to-quantify and time-consuming instrumental phase shifts. Two liquid samples were used: distilled water and ethylene glycol. Excellent agreement was found with reported results in the literature. The accuracy of the thermal diffusivity measurements using the new methodology originates in the use of only difference measurements in the thermal-wave phase and cavity length. Measurement precision is directly related to the corresponding precision on the measurement of the thermal wavelength. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.