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A body of water or waterbody (often spelled water body) is any significant accumulation of water, usually covering the Earth or another planet. The term body of water most often refers to large accumulations of water, such as oceans, seas, and lakes, but it may also include smaller pools of water such as ponds, puddles or wetlands. Rivers, streams, canals, and other geographical features where water moves from one place to another are not always considered bodies of water, but there is no other term in English comprising "stationary" bodies of water as well as rivers and canals etc., and such moving bodies of water are included in this article.

Some bodies of water can be man-made (artificial), such as reservoirs or harbors, but most are naturally occurring geographical features. 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.

The term body of water can also refer to a reservoir of water held by a plant, technically known as a phytotelma.

Types of bodies of water

Note that there are some geographical features involving water that are not bodies of water, for example waterfalls and geysers.
  • Arm of the sea - also sea arm, used to describe a sea loch.
  • Arroyo - a usually dry creek bed or gulch that temporarily fills with water after a heavy rain, or seasonally.
  • Barachois - a lagoon separated from the ocean by a sand bar
  • Basin - a region of land where water from rain or snowmelt drains downhill into another body of water, such as a river, lake, or dam.
  • Bay - an area of water bordered by land on three sides.
  • Bayou - a small, slow-moving stream or creek.
  • Beck - a small stream.
  • Bight - a large and often only slightly receding bay, or a bend in any geographical feature.
  • Billabong - a pond or still body of water created when a river changes course and some water becomes trapped. Australian.
  • Boil - a body of water formed by a spring.
  • Brook - a small stream.
  • Burn - a small stream.
  • Canal - a man-made 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.
  • Creek - a small stream.
  • Creek - an inlet of the sea, narrower than a cove.
  • Dam - a barrier across flowing water that obstructs, directs or slows down the flow, often creating a reservoir, lake or impoundment. The word "dam" can also refer to the reservoir rather than the structure.
  • Draw - a usually dry creek bed or gulch that temporarily fills with water after a heavy rain, or seasonally.
  • 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
  • Firth - the Scots word used to denote various coastal waters in Scotland. It is usually a large sea bay, estuary, inlet, or strait.
  • Fjord (fiord) - a submergent landform which has occurred due to glacial activity.
  • Glacier - A large collection of ice or a frozen river that moves slowly down a mountain.
  • 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.

  • Harbor - a man-made or naturally occurring body of water where ships are stored or may shelter from the ocean's weather and currents.
  • 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.
  • Kettle - a shallow, sediment-filled body of water formed by retreating glaciers or draining floodwaters.
  • Kill - used in areas of Dutchmarker influence in New Yorkmarker, New Jerseymarker and other areas of the former New Netherland colony of Dutch America to describe a strait, river, or arm of the sea.
  • 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.
  • Lake - a body of water or other liquid, but usually freshwater, of considerable size contained on a body of land.
  • Loch - a body of water such as a lake, sea inlet, firth, fjord, estuary or bay.
  • Mangrove swamp - Saline costal habitat of mangrove trees and shrubs.
  • 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.
  • Millpond - a reservoir built to provide flowing water to a watermill
  • Moat - a deep, broad trench, filled with water, surrounding a structure, installation, or town.
  • Ocean - a major body of saline water that, in totality, covers about 71% of the Earth's surface.
  • Oxbow Lake - a U-shaped lake formed when a wide meander from the mainstem of a river is cut off to create a lake.
  • Phytotelma - a small, discrete body of water held by some plants.
  • Pool - a small body of water such as a swimming pool, reflecting pool, pond, or puddle.
  • Pond - a body of water smaller than a lake, especially those of man-made origin.
  • Puddle - a small accumulation of water on a surface, usually the ground.
  • Rapid - a fast moving part of a river
  • Reservoir - an artificial lake, used to store water for various uses.
  • River - a natural waterway usually formed by water derived from either precipitation or glacial meltwater, and flows from higher ground to lower ground.
  • Run - a small stream or part thereof, especially a smoothly flowing part of a stream.
  • 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.
  • 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 Seamarker and the Dead Seamarker. In common usage, often synonymous to ocean.
  • Sea loch - a sea inlet loch.
  • Sea lough - a fjord, estuary, bay or sea inlet.
  • Slough - the word slough has several meanings related to wetland or aquatic features.
  • Source - the original point from which the river or stream flows. A river's source is sometimes a spring.
  • 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.
  • Spring - a point where groundwater flows out of the ground, and is thus where the aquifer surface meets the ground surface
  • Strait - a narrow channel of water that connects two larger bodies of water, and thus lies between two land masses.
  • Stream - a body of water with a detectable current, confined within a bed and banks.
  • 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 Vostokmarker in Antarcticamarker is an example.
  • 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.
  • Tarn - a mountain lake or pool formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier.
  • Tide pool - a rocky pool adjacent to an ocean and filled with seawater.
  • Vernal pool - a shallow, natural depression in level ground, with no permanent above-ground outlet, that holds water seasonally.
  • Wash - a usually dry creek bed or gulch that temporarily fills with water after a heavy rain, or seasonally.
  • Wetland - an environment "at the interface between truly terrestrial ecosystems and truly aquatic systems making them different from each yet highly dependent on both" (Mitsch & Gosselink, 1986).


See also

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