A new interpretation of a nonlinear wind-wave system is proposed. It is proposed that, for steady wind blowing in one direction, a nonlinear wind-wave system can be completely characterized, to a good first approximation, by a single nonlinear wave train having a carrier frequency equal to that of the dominant frequency in the wind-wave spectrum. In this model, the spectral components of the wind-wave system are not considered a random collection of free waves, each obeying the usual dispersion relation, but are effectively non-dispersive bound-wave components of a single dominant wave, travelling at the speed of the dominant wave. To first order, the nonlinear wind-wave system is considered to be a coherent bound-wave system which propagates energy only at the group velocity of the dominant wave and is governed by nonlinear self-interactions of the type found in amplitude-modulated wave trains. The role of short free waves in the system is discussed. Results of laboratory experiments performed by the authors and by Ramamonjiarisoa & Coantic (1976) are found to provide evidence supporting the applicability of such a model to wind waves under virtually all laboratory conditions. Preliminary consideration is given to possible application of the model to oceanic wind waves and conditions are identified for which the model would be most likely to apply.