loch ( , or , usually spelled Lough as a name element outside Scotland), is a body
of water which is either:
Sea-inlet lochs are often called sea lochs
Looking down Loch Long, which is a sea loch
This name for a body of water is Gaelic
in origin and is applied to most
lakes in Scotland and to many sea inlets in the west and north of
Scotland. The word is Indo-European
origin; cf. Latin lacus
'lake'. For a list, see
List of lochs in
As a name
element Loch has been anglicised to Lough for
many bodies of water in Ireland and is also
used for some bodies of water in the north of England (many of
which used to be called "meres" (a Northern English dialect word
for "lake" and an archaic Standard English word meaning "a lake
that is broad in relation to its depth") such as the Black
Lough in Northumberland.
However, reference to the latter as
(lower case initial), rather than
and so on, is unusual. For
lists, see List of Irish
and List of
Although there is no strict size definition, a small loch is often
known as a lochan
(so spelled also in Scottish
Gaelic; in Irish it is spelled lochán
the most famous Scottish loch is Loch Ness, although there are other large examples such as
Lomond and Loch
of sea lochs in Scotland include Loch Long, Loch
Eriboll, Loch Tristan, Trisloch.
The uses of lochs
reservoirs for hydroelectric schemes have been given names
faithful to the names for natural bodies of water - for example:
the Loch Sloy scheme, and Lochs Laggan and Treig (which form part of the Lochaber hydroelectric scheme near Fort
William). Other expanses are simply called reservoirs, eg: Blackwater
Reservoir above Kinlochleven.
Loch Lubnaig, a reservoir
Scotland has very few natural water bodies actually called 'lakes'.
Menteith, an Anglicisation of the Scots Laich o Menteith meaning a
"low-lying bit of land in Menteith", and applied to the loch there
because of the similarity of the sounds of the words laich
and lake. The Lake of the Hirsel, Pressmennan
Lake and Lake Louise, (In the grounds of Skibo Castle), are other bodies of water in Scotland which are
called lakes and all are man-made.
Some Scots will correct
anyone who refers to "lochs" as "lakes".
The word "loch" is used as a shibboleth
to identify natives of England, because the hard "ch
" ( ) sound is used in Scotland
whereas most English people pronounce the word like "lock".
Lochs beyond Scotland and Ireland
As "loch" is a common Gaelic word, it is also found as the root of
States naval port of Pearl Harbor, located on the south coast of the main Hawaiian island of Oahu, is one of a
complex of sea inlets.
Several of these are named as lochs,
viz. South East Loch, Merry Loch, East Loch, Middle Loch and West
Brenton Loch in the Falkland Islands is a sea loch, near Lafonia, East
- The word has currency in the following languages: Scottish Gaelic,
Scots; in addition to Scottish English, Irish English and
- Stan Beckensall (2004). Northumberland Place-Names. Butler
Publishing, Thropton, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE65 7LP. ISBN