Pyroclastic flows are a common product of explosive volcanism and have the potential to initiate tsunamis whenever thick, dense flows encounter bodies of water. We evaluate the process of tsunami generation by pyroclastic flow by decomposing the pyroclastic flow into two components, the dense underflow portion, which we term the pyroclastic debris flow, and the plume, which includes the surge and coignimbrite ash cloud parts of the flow. We consider five possible wave generation mechanisms. These mechanisms consist of steam explosion, pyroclastic debris flow, plume pressure, plume shear, and pressure impulse wave generation. Our theoretical analysis of tsunami generation by these mechanisms provides an estimate of tsunami features such as a characteristic wave amplitude and wavelength. We find that in most situations, tsunami generation is dominated by the pyroclastic debris flow component of a pyroclastic flow. This work presents information sufficient to construct tsunami sources for an arbitrary pyroclastic flow interacting with most bodies of water. Copyright 2003 by the American Geophysical Union.