An area of lakes in Germany at Mecklenburg Lakeland

A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land, apart from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake.[1] Lakes lie on land and are not part of the ocean, and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are also larger and deeper than ponds, though there are no official or scientific definitions.[2] Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams, which are usually flowing. Most lakes are fed and drained by rivers and streams.

Natural lakes are generally found in mountainous areas, rift zones, and areas with ongoing glaciation. Other lakes are found in endorheic basins or along the courses of mature rivers. In some parts of the world there are many lakes because of chaotic drainage patterns left over from the last Ice Age. All lakes are temporary over geologic time scales, as they will slowly fill in with sediments or spill out of the basin containing them.

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

Etymology, meaning, and usage of "lake"

Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada
The Caspian Sea is either the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea.[3]

The word lake comes from Middle English lake ("lake, pond, waterway"), from Old English lacu ("pond, pool, stream"), from Proto-Germanic *lakō ("pond, ditch, slow moving stream"), from the Proto-Indo-European root *leǵ- ("to leak, drain"). Cognates include Dutch laak ("lake, pond, ditch"), Middle Low German lāke ("water pooled in a riverbed, puddle") as in: de:Wolfslake, de:Butterlake, German Lache ("pool, puddle"), and Icelandic lækur ("slow flowing stream"). Also related are the English words leak and leach.

There is considerable uncertainty about defining the difference between lakes and ponds, and no current internationally accepted definition of either term across scientific disciplines or political boundaries exists.[4] For example, limnologists have defined lakes as water bodies which are simply a larger version of a pond, which can have wave action on the shoreline or where wind-induced turbulence plays a major role in mixing the water column. None of these definitions completely excludes ponds and all are difficult to measure. For this reason, simple size-based definitions are increasingly used to separate ponds and lakes. Definitions for lake range in minimum sizes for a body of water from 2 hectares (5 acres)[5]:331[6] to 8 hectares (20 acres)[7] (see also the definition of "pond"). Charles Elton, one of the founders of ecology, regarded lakes as waterbodies of 40 hectares (99 acres) or more.[8] The term lake is also used to describe a feature such as Lake Eyre, which is a dry basin most of the time but may become filled under seasonal conditions of heavy rainfall. In common usage, many lakes bear names ending with the word pond, and a lesser number of names ending with lake are in quasi-technical fact, ponds. One textbook illustrates this point with the following: "In Newfoundland, for example, almost every lake is called a pond, whereas in Wisconsin, almost every pond is called a lake."[9]

One hydrology book proposes to define the term "lake" as a body of water with the following five characteristics:[4]

  • it partially or totally fills one or several basins connected by straits[4]
  • has essentially the same water level in all parts (except for relatively short-lived variations caused by wind, varying ice cover, large inflows, etc.)[4]
  • it does not have regular intrusion of seawater[4]
  • a considerable portion of the sediment suspended in the water is captured by the basins (for this to happen they need to have a sufficiently small inflow-to-volume ratio)[4]
  • the area measured at the mean water level exceeds an arbitrarily chosen threshold (for instance, one hectare)[4]

With the exception of the seawater intrusion criterion, the others have been accepted or elaborated upon by other hydrology publications.[10][11]

Other Languages
Acèh: Tasék
Afrikaans: Meer
Alemannisch: See
አማርኛ: ሀይቅ
العربية: بحيرة
ܐܪܡܝܐ: ܝܡܬܐ
asturianu: Llagu
Atikamekw: Nipin
Avañe'ẽ: Ypa
Aymar aru: Quta
azərbaycanca: Göl
تۆرکجه: گؤل
বাংলা: হ্রদ
Bahasa Banjar: Danaw
Bân-lâm-gú: Ô͘
башҡортса: Күл
беларуская: Возера
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Возера
भोजपुरी: झील
Bikol Central: Danaw
български: Езеро
bosanski: Jezero
brezhoneg: Lenn (dour)
буряад: Нуур
català: Llac
Чӑвашла: Кӳлĕ
Cebuano: Lanaw
čeština: Jezero
chiShona: Nyanza
Cymraeg: Llyn
Deutsch: See
dolnoserbski: Jazor
eesti: Järv
Ελληνικά: Λίμνη
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Lèg
эрзянь: Эрьке
español: Lago
Esperanto: Lago
euskara: Aintzira
فارسی: دریاچه
français: Lac
Frysk: Mar
furlan: Lâc
Gaeilge: Loch
Gaelg: Logh
Gàidhlig: Loch-uisge
galego: Lago
ГӀалгӀай: Iам
ગુજરાતી: તળાવ
한국어: 호수
հայերեն: Լիճ
हिन्दी: झील
hornjoserbsce: Jězor
hrvatski: Jezero
Bahasa Hulontalo: Bulalo
Ido: Lago
Ilokano: Danaw
Bahasa Indonesia: Danau
interlingua: Laco
Ирон: Цад
isiZulu: Ichibi
íslenska: Stöðuvatn
italiano: Lago
עברית: אגם
Basa Jawa: Tlaga
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಸರೋವರ
ქართული: ტბა
қазақша: Көл
Kiswahili: Ziwa
коми: Ты
Kreyòl ayisyen: Lak
kurdî: Gol
Кыргызча: Көл
кырык мары: Йӓр
Latina: Lacus
latviešu: Ezers
Lëtzebuergesch: Séi
lietuvių: Ežeras
lingála: Etímá
Lingua Franca Nova: Lago
Livvinkarjala: Järvi
la .lojban.: lalxu
lumbaart: Lagh
македонски: Езеро
Malagasy: Farihy
മലയാളം: തടാകം
मराठी: सरोवर
მარგალური: ტობა
مازِرونی: دریاچه
Bahasa Melayu: Tasik
Baso Minangkabau: Danau
Mirandés: Lago
монгол: Нуур
Nāhuatl: Atezcatl
Nederlands: Meer (watervlakte)
Napulitano: Laco
нохчийн: Ӏам
Nordfriisk: Sia
norsk: Innsjø
norsk nynorsk: Innsjø
occitan: Estanh
олык марий: Ер
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Koʻl
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਝੀਲ
polski: Jezioro
português: Lago
română: Lac
rumantsch: Lai
Runa Simi: Qucha
русиньскый: Озеро
русский: Озеро
саха тыла: Күөл
Scots: Loch
shqip: Liqeni
sicilianu: Lacu
සිංහල: විල්
Simple English: Lake
سنڌي: ڍنڍ
slovenčina: Jazero
slovenščina: Jezero
српски / srpski: Језеро
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Jezero
Basa Sunda: Situ
suomi: Järvi
svenska: Insjö
Tagalog: Lawa
தமிழ்: ஏரி
татарча/tatarça: Күл
తెలుగు: సరస్సు
тоҷикӣ: Кӯл
Türkçe: Göl
Türkmençe: Kol
удмурт: Ты
українська: Озеро
اردو: جھیل
Vahcuengh: Huz
vèneto: Łago
Tiếng Việt: Hồ
Võro: Järv
Winaray: Danaw
Wolof: Ngéej
ייִדיש: אזערע
Yorùbá: Adágún
žemaitėška: Ežers
中文: 湖泊