Learn the differences between Ocean, River, lake, sea, waterfall, brackish and stream.

English words can be tricky sometimes especially when they are describing similar things or events. In this case, water Bodies found around the earth are described with different names owing to different unique attributes associated with them. Knowing These differences would help you to understand why these water Bodies are named differently.

A water body is basically defined as a significant accumulation of water in a particular region on the surface of the earth. This usually refers to oceans, seas, lakes and so on. It is essential to understand the difference between different water bodies to know how they all work.

1) Ocean

An ocean is a very large, usually described as gigantic mass of water body, believed to cover over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. They are the biggest water Bodies on earth. There are five oceans on earth. Arranged in descending order, they are;

a) Pacific ocean

b) Atlantic ocean

c) Indian ocean

d) Southern (Antarctic) ocean

e) Arctic ocean

Oceans are usually salt water Bodies, and the water if not processed, is not drinkable by humans, so If you ever find yourself stucked in an Ocean, you may likely die from thirst first. The oceans are so big that movements of current within them can affect weathers through out the world. This means that a change in the current of the ocean can change the weather in any part of the world. It is Also believed that hurricanes and floods begins from the oceans. The ocean houses over 230k species of animals but because it’s expanse is till unexplored, it’s believed to be housing over 2million species of animals. The bluish ocean color is a composite of several contributing agents. Prominent contributors include dissolved organic matter and chlorophyll. Sea explorers have revealed that at night, the ocean usually emits a visible glow which expands for miles. It is most likely caused by bioluminescence.

2. SEA

Seas are usually an expanse of water body that’s enclosed by Land. Seas are smaller than oceans and are mostly located where an ocean and the land meet. Seas are found on the margins of the ocean and are partially enclosed by land. Here, you can see that the Bering Sea is part of the Pacific Ocean.

Most people use oceans and seas interchangeable but in geography, there is a difference between them. Typically, seas are usually enclosed partially or wholely by Land. Seas are also salt water Bodies.

There are seven seas in the world. The Seven Seas include the;

a) Arctic sea

b) North Atlantic sea

c) South Atlantic sea

d) North Pacific sea

e) South Pacific sea

f) Indian sea

g) Southern seas

The exact origin of the phrase ‘Seven Seas’ is uncertain, although there are references in ancient literature that date back thousands of years.


A river is usually described as a ribbon like water body that flows downhill due to the force of gravity. Rivers comes in varieties, from shallow Rivers, enough for one person to walk through or wide and deep. Some rivers are seasonal, hence they flow only during a particular season while others flow all year long. The largest rivers can be thousands of miles long. The erosional power of rivers can form geologic wonders like the Grand Canyon.

Rivers have starting points known as headwater, may be from different sources such as rainfall, ice melting, underground water, e.t.c and an end know as the mouth, in which it empties it’s contents in a sea or an ocean. They may also pass through wetlands which have plants growing that slows down the river currents and filters out pollutants.

Rivers are natural streams of free-flowing water. The Nile river in Africa and Amazon river in South America are the two largest rivers. Rivers are fresh water Bodies, meaning they contain less than one percent salt concentration. But they have enough salt and nutrients to support sea plants.

Rivers can also form what is called an estuary, where salty seawater mixes with fresh water near the river mouth to form “brackish water.” The Hudson River in New York, U.S., is an example of an estuary where brackish water extends more than 241 kilometers (150 miles) upstream.

4) Brackish water

Brackish water is water body having more salinity (greater than one percent salt concentration) than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It usually results from mixing seawater (salt water) with fresh water together, as in estuaries, or it may occur in brackish fossil aquifers. The word comes from the Middle Dutch root “brak”.

5) Lake

A lake is any water body found in a localized environment, totally surrounded by Land except for the stream or river which feeds or drains it. In other words, a Lake is a large water body of stagnant water, within an area. These can be natural, formed by glaciers or man-made, such as reservoirs.

Lakes vary greatly in size and depth. Their physical characteristics are affected by temperature, wind and light. The lake abounds in nitrogen and phosphorus that allows nutrient-rich plants to grow.

Therefore, they are distinct from lagoons, and are also larger and deeper than ponds, though there are no official or scientific definitions. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams, which are usually flowing. Most lakes are fed and drained by rivers and streams.

Many lakes are artificial and are constructed for industrial or agricultural use, for hydro-electric power generation or domestic water supply, or for aesthetic, recreational purposes, or other activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Which is the smallest ocean in the world?

The smallest ocean on the planet earth is the Arctic ocean.

2) Which is the sea that is known to be the only sea without shores?

The only known sea without any shores is the Sargasso Sea.

3) What are tides? What causes tides in water bodies?

Tides are the fall and rise of the sea levels that are caused by a combination of the effects of gravitational forces that are exerted by the sun and the moon and the Earth’s rotation.

4)How do you differentiate between a sea and a lake?

Sea has a direct outlet to the ocean, whereas, lakes do not. Lakes may be above or below sea level. Lakes are man-made water bodies, whereas a sea is natural.

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    This is really interesting

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