Listed here are geography terms related to water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and oceans.
An archipelago is a group or chain of islands clustered together in a sea or ocean.
A dry creek or streambed, a gulch that temporarily or seasonally fills and flows after sufficient rain.
An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, island, or series of islets. An atoll surrounds a body of water called a lagoon.
Rivers have two sides – the right and left banks.
A wide opening or bend in the land into which water flows. See also Gulf.
The land over which a river or stream flows.
Water that is saltier than fresh water, but not as salty as seawater. It may result from mixing of seawater with fresh water, as in estuaries, or it may occur in brackish fossil aquifers.
Also known as a creek, a larger stream.
A canal is a man-made waterway constructed to allow the passage of boats or ships inland or to convey water for irrigation.
A delta is a landform where the mouth of a river flows into an ocean, sea, desert, estuary, lake or another river, usually marked by silt deposits.
The tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream and creates a transitional area between river and sea environments.
A long, deep, narrow body of water that reaches far inland. Fjords are often set in a U-shaped valley with steep walls of rock on either side.
A slowly moving mass or river of ice formed by the accumulation and compaction of snow on mountains or near the poles.
A long and narrow opening in the land into which water flows. Related to Bay.
A spring produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater that rises from the Earth’s crust.
A large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open water.
The area that is above water at low tide and underwater at high tide. This area can include many different types of habitats, including steep rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, or wetlands.
A piece of land with water all around it.
An isthmus is a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land.
A large indentation in the land where water forms. A large body of water surrounded by land.
A lagoon is a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water (such as a sea or ocean) by barrier islands, coral reefs, or other similar features.
A winding curve or bend in a river. Meanders are a result of both erosional and depositional processes.
A mouth is the place where a river flows into another body of water.
An oasis is an isolated area in a desert, typically surrounding a spring or similar water source, where vegetation is found.
A large body of saltwater that covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface. There are five named oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern.
An oxbow lake is a U-shaped lake that forms when a wide meander from the mainstem of a river is cut off, creating a free-standing body of water.
A small body of standing water, smaller than a lake. Ponds are generally formed naturally, but can also be created by animals, or they can be artificial, such as garden ponds.
A section of a river where the river bed has a relatively steep gradient, causing an increase in water velocity and turbulence.
A man-made lake, usually formed by damming a river to store water for various uses, particularly for irrigation and municipal water supply.
A rivers is a large, flowing body of water that usually empties into a sea or ocean.
A peninsula is a piece of land with water on three sides. The word peninsula is derived from Latin and means almost an island.
The narrow neck of land that joins a peninsula to the mainland is called an isthmus.
A small hollow in the land where water forms. Smaller than a lake, ponds are bodies of standing water that can either be natural or man-made.
Places in a river where the water rushes rapidly down a steep slope. The water often appears foam caused by the turbulence of the water as it hits rocks and debris during its flow.
Small thread-like stream.
The land near a large body of water is called a shore.
A large sea or ocean inlet, deeper than a bight and wider than a fjord.
The location of the beginning of a river, also known as headwaters.
Water flowing out of the ground. From springs flow small streams called rills, brooks, or creeks.
A strait is a narrow passage of water connecting two seas or two other large areas of water.
A wetland that is forested, with trees and shrubs. Swamps are characterized by their waterlogged soil and low-lying terrain.
A rocky pool on the sea shore which is filled with seawater, often found in the intertidal zone. Tide pools are habitats of uniquely adaptable animals.
A small stream of water flowing into a larger one. Also called branches of a river.
A seasonal ephemeral pool that provides habitat for distinctive plants and animals.
The place in a river where the water falls over a ledge or edge. A cataract is a large and powerful waterfall.
The level below which the ground is saturated with water. The water table separates the groundwater zone that lies below it from the capillary fringe, or unsaturated zone, that lies above it.
A wetland is an area of land where water covers the soil or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.
Wetlands can be natural or artificial and the water within a wetland can be static or flowing, fresh, brackish, or saline. Examples of natural wetlands include swamps, marshes, and bogs.
A rapidly rotating mass of water in a river or sea into which objects may be drawn, typically caused by the meeting of conflicting currents.
This glossary was originally written on July 1, 2014 and has since been updated.