Body of water

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The Aubach, a watercourse in Germany
A fjord (Lysefjord) in Norway

A body of water or waterbody[1] (often spelled water body) is any significant accumulation of water on the surface of Earth or another planet. The term most often refers to oceans, seas, and lakes, but it includes smaller pools of water such as ponds, wetlands, or more rarely, puddles. A body of water does not have to be still or contained; rivers, streams, canals, and other geographical features where water moves from one place to another are also considered bodies of water.[2]

Most are naturally occurring geographical features, but some are artificial. There are types that can be either. For example, most reservoirs are created by engineering dams, but some natural lakes are used as reservoirs. Similarly, most harbors are naturally occurring bays, but some harbors have been created through construction.

Bodies of water that are navigable are known as waterways. Some bodies of water collect and move water, such as rivers and streams, and others primarily hold water, such as lakes and oceans.

Bodies of water are affected by gravity, which is what creates the tidal effects.[3] Moreso, the impact of climate change on water is likely to intensify as observed through the rising sea levels, water acidification and flooding. This means that climate change has pressure on water bodies.[4]


Bodies of water can be categorized into:

  1. Rain water
  2. Surface water
  3. Underground water
The Canal Grande in Venice, one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city. View from the Accademia bridge.
A weir in Toledo, Spain. Weirs are frequently used to change the height of a riverlevel, prevent floodings, and measure water discharge.

There are some geographical features involving water that are not bodies of water, for example, waterfalls, geysers and rapids.

Table of bodies of water
Name Description Regions/dialects Running/Stationary/Wetland Running: Ephemeral/Perennial
Stationary: Coastal/non-coastal
Allt Stream Scottish Highlands[citation needed] Running
Arm of the sea also sea-arm, used to describe a sea loch. Stationary Coastal
Arroyo A usually-dry bed of a steep-sided stream, gully, or narrow channel that temporarily fills with water after heavy rain. See also wadi. Southwest US Running Ephemeral (seasonal)
Artificial lake or artificial pond see reservoir (impoundment). Stationary
Barachois A lagoon separated from the ocean by a sand bar. Canada Stationary Coastal
Basin Stationary
Bay An area of water bordered by land on three sides, similar to, but smaller than a gulf. Stationary Coastal
Bayou A slow-moving stream or a marshy lake. Southern US Wetland
Beck (stream) or Beck (gill) A small stream (esp. with a rocky bottom); creek.[5] Lincolnshire to Cumbria in areas which were once occupied by the Danes and Norwegians.[6] Running
Bight A large and often only slightly receding bay, or a bend in any geographical feature. Stationary Coastal
Billabong an oxbow lake; a pond or still body of water created when a river changes course and some water becomes trapped. Located in Australia Stationary
Boil see seep Stationary
Bog a type of wetland that accumulates peat due to incomplete decomposition of plant matter. Stationary
Bourne or Winterbourne a brook; stream; small, seasonal stream.[7][8] Chalk downland of southern England Running Ephemeral[9] When permanent, they are chalk streams.
Broad A stationary inland body of fresh water Norfolk and Suffolk area; cf. The Broads Stationary
Brook A small stream; a creek.[10][11] Running
Brooklet A small brook. Running
Burn A small stream; a brook.[12][13] Scotland and North East England.[14] Running
Canal an artificial waterway, usually connected to (and sometimes connecting) existing lakes, rivers, or oceans.
Channel the physical confine of a river, slough or ocean strait consisting of a bed and banks. See also stream bed and strait.
Cove a coastal landform. Earth scientists generally use the term to describe a circular or round inlet with a narrow entrance, though colloquially the term is sometimes used to describe any sheltered bay. Stationary Coastal
Creek a (narrow) stream that is smaller than a river; a minor tributary of a river; brook.[20] Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States Running
Creek (tidal) an inlet of the sea, narrower than a cove.[25] Mainly British
Dam A dam is a barrier that stops or restricts the flow of surface water or underground streams, or water reservoir resulting from placing such a structure. Stationary
Delta the location where a river flows into an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, or reservoir. Coastal
Distributary or distributary channel a stream that branches off and flows away from the main stream channel. Running
Drainage basin a region of land where water from rain or snowmelt drains downhill into another body of water, such as a river, lake, or reservoir.
Draw a usually dry creek bed or gulch that temporarily fills with water after a heavy rain, or seasonally. See also wadi. Running Ephemeral
Dyke (UK) Either a narrow artificial channel off a river or broad for access or mooring, or a ditch (a water-filled drainage trench); not to be confused with Dyke (embankment) Used in The Broads Stationary
Estuary a semi-enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea Coastal
Firth Various coastal waters, such as large sea bays, estuaries, inlets, and straits. Scottish Stationary Coastal
Fjord (fiord) a narrow inlet of the sea between cliffs or steep slopes.[26] Scandinavian Stationary Coastal
Gill or Ghyll a narrow stream or rivulet; brook; narrow mountain stream.[30] The north of England and Kent and Surrey influenced by Old Norse; The variant "ghyll" is used in the Lake District and appears to have been an invention of William Wordsworth.[31] Running
Glacier a large collection of ice or a frozen river that moves slowly down a mountain. Technically running
Glacial pothole a giant's kettle. Stationary
Gulf a part of a lake or ocean that extends so that it is surrounded by land on three sides, similar to, but larger than a bay. Stationary Coastal
Harbor an artificial or naturally occurring body of water where ships are stored or may shelter from the ocean's weather and currents. Stationary
Hot spring a spring produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater. Running
Impoundment an artificially-created body of water, by damming a source. Often used for flood control, as a drinking water supply (reservoir), recreation, ornamentation (artificial pond), or other purpose or combination of purposes. The process of creating an "impoundment" of water is itself called "impoundment." Stationary
Ice cap A body of frozen water less than 50,000 km2 not constrained by topographical features (i.e., they will lie over the top of mountains)
Ice field A body of frozen water constrained by topographical features Stationary
Ice sheet A body of frozen water more than 50,000 km2
Inlet a body of water, usually seawater, which has characteristics of one or more of the following: bay, cove, estuary, firth, fjord, geo, sea loch, or sound. Stationary Coastal
Kettle (or kettle lake) a shallow, sediment-filled body of water formed by retreating glaciers or draining floodwaters. Stationary
Kill a strait, river, or arm of the sea. used in areas of Dutch influence in New York, New Jersey and other areas of the former New Netherland colony of Dutch America
Lagoon a body of comparatively shallow salt or brackish water separated from the deeper sea by a shallow or exposed sandbank, coral reef, or similar feature. Stationary
Lake a body of water, usually freshwater, of relatively large size contained on a body of land. Stationary
Lick a small watercourse or an ephemeral stream Stationary
Loch a body of water such as a lake, sea inlet, firth, fjord, estuary or bay. Scottish Stationary
Mangrove swamp a saline coastal habitat of mangrove trees and shrubs. Stationary
Marsh a wetland featuring grasses, rushes, reeds, typhas, sedges, and other herbaceous plants (possibly with low-growing woody plants) in a context of shallow water. See also salt marsh. Wetland
Mediterranean sea (oceanography) a mostly enclosed sea that has a limited exchange of deep water with outer oceans and where the water circulation is dominated by salinity and temperature differences rather than winds Stationary
Mere a lake or body of water that is broad in relation to its depth. Stationary
Mill pond a reservoir built to provide flowing water to a watermill. Stationary
Moat a deep, broad trench, either dry or filled with water, surrounding and protecting a structure, installation, or town. Stationary
Mud puddle Stationary
Nant Stream Wales.[32] Running
Ocean a major body of salty water that, in totality, covers about 71% of the Earth's surface. Stationary
Oxbow lake a U-shaped lake formed when a wide meander from the mainstem of a river is cut off to create a lake. Stationary
Phytotelma a small, discrete body of water held by some plants.
Plunge pool a depression at the base of a waterfall. Stationary
Pool various small bodies of water such as a swimming pool, reflecting pool, pond, or puddle. Stationary
Pond a body of water smaller than a lake, especially those of artificial origin. Stationary
Port a maritime facility where ships may dock to load and discharge passengers and cargo. Stationary
Pothole see kettle Stationary
Puddle a small accumulation of water on a surface, usually the ground. Stationary
Reflecting pool a water feature usually consisting of a shallow pool of water, undisturbed by fountain jets, for a reflective surface. Stationary
Reservoir a place to store water for various uses, especially drinking water, which can be a natural or artificial (see lake and impoundment). Stationary
Rill a shallow channel of running water. These can be either natural or human-made. Also: a very small brook; rivulet; small stream.[33][34] Running
River a natural waterway usually formed by water derived from either precipitation or glacial meltwater, and flows from higher ground to lower ground. Running
Rivulet (UK, US literary) a small or very small stream.[35] Victorian era publications.[36] Running
Roadstead a place outside a harbor where a ship can lie at anchor; it is an enclosed area with an opening to the sea, narrower than a bay or gulf (often called a "roads"). Stationary
Run a small stream or part thereof, especially a smoothly flowing part of a stream. Running
Salt marsh a type of marsh that is a transitional zone between land and an area, such as a slough, bay, or estuary, with salty or brackish water. Stationary
Sea a large expanse of saline water connected with an ocean, or a large, usually saline, lake that lacks a natural outlet such as the Caspian Sea and the Dead Sea. In common usage, often synonymous with the ocean. Stationary
Sea loch a sea inlet loch. Stationary Coastal
Sea lough a fjord, estuary, bay or sea inlet. Stationary Coastal
Seep a body of water formed by a spring. Stationary
Slough several different meanings related to wetland or aquatic features. Stationary
Source the original point from which the river or stream flows. A river's source is sometimes a spring. Running
Shoal a natural submerged ridge, bank, or bar that consists of, or is covered by, sand or other unconsolidated material, and rises from the bed of a body of water to near the surface.
Sound a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, wider than a fjord, or it may identify a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land. Stationary Coastal
Spring a point where groundwater flows out of the ground, and is thus where the aquifer surface meets the ground surface Running
Strait a narrow channel of water that connects two larger bodies of water, and thus lies between two land masses. Stationary
Stream a body of water with a detectable current, confined within a bed and banks. Running
Stream pool a stretch of a river or stream in which the water is relatively deep and slow moving. Stationary
Streamlet a small stream; rivulet.[37] Running
Subglacial lake a lake that is permanently covered by ice and whose water remains liquid by the pressure of the ice sheet and geothermal heating. They often occur under glaciers or ice caps. Lake Vostok in Antarctica is an example. Stationary
Swamp a wetland that features permanent inundation of large areas of land by shallow bodies of water, generally with a substantial number of hummocks, or dry-land protrusions. Wetland
Syke[38] Stream Scottish Lowlands and Cumbria Running Seasonal
Swimming pool an artificial container filled with water intended for swimming. Stationary
Tank (or stock tank, Texas) an artificial pond, usually for watering cattle or other livestock.[39] Stationary
Tarn a mountain lake or pool formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier. Stationary
Tide pool a rocky pool adjacent to an ocean and filled with seawater. Stationary
Tributary or affluent a stream or river that flows into the main stem (or parent) river or a lake. Running
Vernal pool a shallow, natural depression in level ground, with no permanent above-ground outlet, that holds water seasonally. Wetland
Wadi a usually-dry creek bed or gulch that temporarily fills with water after a heavy rain, or seasonally Located in North Africa and Western Asia. See also arroyo (creek). Running Ephemeral
Wash a usually dry creek bed or gulch that temporarily fills with water after a heavy rain, or seasonally. See also wadi. Running Ephemeral
Wetland an environment "at the interface between truly terrestrial ecosystems and truly aquatic systems making them different from each yet highly dependent on both".[40] Wetland

See also[edit]




  1. ^ "waterbody noun (pl. -ies) a body of water forming a physiographical feature, for example a sea or a reservoir." New Oxford Dictionary of English
  2. ^ Langbein, W.B.; Iseri, Kathleen T. (1995). "Hydrologic Definitions: Stream". Manual of Hydrology: Part 1. General Surface-Water Techniques (Water Supply Paper 1541-A). Reston, VA: USGS..
  3. ^ "What causes high tide and low tide? Why are there two tides each day?". HowStuffWorks. 21 May 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  4. ^ "European Environment Agency's home page — European Environment Agency". Retrieved 2022-11-03.
  5. ^ "beck". Collins. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  6. ^ "OED Online – Beck". Oxford University Press. June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  7. ^ "bourn". Collins. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  8. ^ "bourn". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on September 30, 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  9. ^ "OED Online – Bourne". Oxford University Press. June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  10. ^ "brook". Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  11. ^ "OED Online – Brook". Oxford University Press. June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  12. ^ "burn". Collins. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  13. ^ "burn". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on November 5, 2018. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  14. ^ "OED Online – Burn". Oxford University Press. June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  15. ^ "creek". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on September 24, 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2019. British...especially an inlet...(whereas) NZ, North American, or minor tributary.
  16. ^ "(US) creek". English Oxford Living Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on September 24, 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2019. North American, Australian, NZ...A stream, brook, or minor tributary of a river.
  17. ^ "creek"., LLC. Retrieved 18 May 2019. U.S., Canada , and Australia…a stream smaller than a river.
  18. ^ "creek". Collins. Collins. Retrieved 18 May 2019. US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand a small stream or tributary
  19. ^ "creek". Macmillan Dictionary. Springer Nature Limited. Retrieved 18 May 2019. a narrow stream
  20. ^ [15][16][17][18][19]
  21. ^ "creek". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on September 24, 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2019. British...especially an inlet
  22. ^ "creek"., LLC. Retrieved 18 May 2019. Chiefly Atlantic States and British...a recess or inlet in the shore of the sea.
  23. ^ "creek". Macmillan Dictionary. Springer Nature Limited. Retrieved 18 May 2019. BRITISH a long narrow area of ocean stretching into the land
  24. ^ "creek". Collins. Collins. Retrieved 18 May 2019. Chiefly British a narrow inlet or bay
  25. ^ [21][22][23][24]
  26. ^ "Definition of FJORD". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  27. ^ "gill". Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  28. ^ "gill". Collins. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  29. ^ "gill". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on September 27, 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  30. ^ [27][28][29]
  31. ^ "OED Online – Gill". Oxford University Press. June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  32. ^ "OED Online – Nant". Oxford University Press. June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  33. ^ "rill". Collins. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  34. ^ "rill". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  35. ^ "rivulet". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  36. ^ "OED Online – Rivulet". Oxford University Press. June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  37. ^ "streamlet". Collins. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  38. ^ "OED Online – Sike". Oxford University Press. June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  39. ^ "Texas Primer: The Stock Tank". Texas Monthly. 1986-05-01. Retrieved 2021-08-03.
  40. ^ Mitsch & Gosselink, 1986
  41. ^ The first edition of Wetlands by Mitsch and Gosselink was published in 1986 by Van Nostrand Reinhold. Second, third, and fourth (current) editions were published in 1993, 2000, and 2007 respectively by John Wiley & Sons. "Wiley: Wetlands, 4th Edition". Archived from the original on 3 July 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2012.

External links[edit]