General Question

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

What is the difference between a pond and a lake?

Asked by Pied_Pfeffer (27861points) 4 days ago
22 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

Is it the size? If so, what does it have to be? Is it just in the name? A curious mind wants to know.

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Ltryptophan's avatar


JLeslie's avatar

I think technically it’s size and depth. Lakes are deep enough that sunlight doesn’t reach the bottom. Less than technical is how the terms are commonly used, and it varies from place to place. In Florida we call small bodies of water lakes, and people from places more north find it a misnomer. More specifically many of the lakes in Florida are retention lakes for water run-off, other places would call them retention ponds.

Zaku's avatar

Here is what the limnologists at Pond Academy offer about this timeless question.

zenvelo's avatar

“Lakes are deep enough that sunlight doesn’t reach the bottom.”

Most ponds are so dense with suspended particles that one cannot see more than a few inches, let alone see the bottom.

Your question is akin to “what is the difference between a boat and a ship?” They used to say “a boat can be carried on a ship” until ship-carrying ships were made, and submarines are called boats.

There is little more to the difference between a pond and a lake other than general ideas about lakes being bigger.

Walden Pond is actually described as a “kettle hole lake” and covers 64 acres, which is pretty big for a pond.

Forever_Free's avatar

A good read on Limnology Here

There is no standard on a Lake versus pond. Different parts of the world and US States differ on their classification.
I was recently reading a dispute if there are more lakes in Wisconsin or Minnesota who boasts “Land of 10,000 Lakes” as their motto.

Different agencies use different definitions of lake for their own purposes, but there is no nationally accepted definition. He deferred to Paul S. Welch, a University of Michigan professor who in 1935 literally wrote the book on limnology — the study of lakes and other bodies of fresh water.

Welch wrote that generally accepted definitions of lake describe “a body of standing water completely isolated from the sea and having an area of open, relatively deep water sufficiently large to produce somewhere on its periphery a barren, wave-swept shore.”

But he pointed out unique lake shapes and makeup create problems for this definition and chose instead to define lakes by exclusion. Welch said ponds are “very small, very shallow bodies of standing water in which quiet water and extensive occupancy by higher aquatic plants are common.”

Anything larger, he said, is a lake.

LostInParadise's avatar

According to this article , Walden Pond is 107 feet deep and according to this article it is 61 acres. Shouldn’t that qualify it to be a lake?

JLeslie's avatar

After reading these answers and thinking about it more, I used to swim in Snake Pond and I think it was a pond mostly because that was the name of the body of water, and maybe not much else.

So, I am back to regions of the US. Is pond used much outside of the Northeast and New England? I really don’t know, it is an honest question, I just know in the Northeast I heard pond used quite often and no where else I have lived, but I have not lived west of the Mississippi. Maybe it had to do with how settlers in the areas translated or interpreted the words.

@zenvelo I guess that is true in some cases with ponds and how murky they can be. When they are full of algae and plants I switch to calling them marsh I think. I realize you were not specifically talking about green particles necessarily, there can be all sorts of things floating around in a pond, I am just adding that into the conversation.

zenvelo's avatar

@LostInParadise But of you go around saying “Walden Pond is a lake” people will say, “then why isn’t it named Walden Lake?”

And, since it has been named Walden Pond since antebellum days, I woul imagine the Transcendentalists who were much closer to nature than most modern Americans would staunchly call it a pond and not a lake.

janbb's avatar

A lake is a pond that went to university.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

A pond can dry out during certain seasons, vernal pond is a pond in the spring and maybe not any other times.

smudges's avatar

The question reminds me of a good movie starring Hugh Grant:

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain

YARNLADY's avatar

I thought it was the source, lakes have streams to replenish and ponds don’t.

janbb's avatar

This is actually a very good discussion about it:

Patty_Melt's avatar

Ownership. Private owned are ponds.

Fishin’ hole can be applied to either.

Now bogs, that is where it gets confusing.

zenvelo's avatar

@Patty_Melt Walden Pond is publicly owned.

SnipSnip's avatar

Officially there is no difference. But, it seems that ponds are just pools of water that have nowhere to drain and aren’t fed water by anything other than rain water unless there is an artesian well. Lakes have moving water such as creeks flowing into and out of the lake, as well as damns. That is how I choose to call a body of water a pond or lake.

Patty_Melt's avatar

@zenvelo, every rule has its exception. The example you gave is a name. You could name a baby pond, but that doesn’t make them water.
Also, owned with property used as a vacation resort, or gated community is a separate issue.

I could find at least one exception to any designation offered.

janbb's avatar

@Patty_Melt But I’ve been to several “ponds” in New England that are not privately owned. I don’t think your definition really holds water (intended).

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canidmajor's avatar

@janbb In our little town there are at least three ponds that are public, often they are full of turtles, which I find to be incredibly adorable. Come visit, we’ll sneak behind the elementary school and spy on them! :-)

chyna's avatar


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