flooding vs. inundation

Watching the News, I noticed that the above two words are a bit different.

Some Disaster Management organization has one of its goals listed as

To prevent inundation and flooding of the low lying areas during cyclone.

What is the difference between the words as implied in the above sentence?

closed as off-topic by MetaEd, Brian Hooper, Rory Alsop, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, terdon Oct 14 '13 at 3:58

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  • Have you looked them up in a dictionary, and. if so, what have you found and why are you still confused? Please refer to the section Where can I find answers to simple and basic questions? on this Help page. – TrevorD Oct 12 '13 at 18:24
  • 1
    @TrevorD At least in the example sentence, the words do not mean the same. It is not without reason or purpose that both the words are used in the sentence. – Kris Oct 13 '13 at 11:20
  • @Kris That doesn't necessarily follow: people often use two words where one will do. But nevertheless, that is still no reason for OP not to do & mention his own research. – TrevorD Oct 13 '13 at 11:52

In many instances, the terms can be used interchangeably. Flooding is defined as

the submerging of land under water, esp due to heavy rain, a lake or river overflowing, etc.

Inundation is defined as

the process or an instance of being flooded

While inundation is defined as flooding, there are circumstances where flooding would be appropriate, but inundation would not. Inundation connotes extensive water presence. Flooding may sometimes be used to convey unwanted water, but in less than overwhelming amounts.

We has some minor flooding, and half of the basement floor was wet.

It is unlikely that someone would say minor inundation.

However, in the example given, I am at a loss to understand the distinction


This is a classic instance of two words in English which mean almost exactly the same thing. (Another word is 'deluge'.)'Flood' is of Germanic origin, 'inundation' of Latin. (OED). The French word is 'inondation', though they do also use 'deluge'. But this explains why English has such a rich and varied vocabulary, and why writers focus on words as a means of inflecting meaning, rather than employing elegant subjunctive endings etc. It perhaps makes up for our having a less than logical system of grammar than those languages which are more closely linked to Latin.


Inundation: To cover with water, especially floodwaters. --> not necessarily floodwaters, could be due to local rainfall , could even be due to a local artesian well.

Flooding: An overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry. --> the overflow may or may not remain in place. If it stays it's inundation; if it carries away top soil or deposits silt, it's purely flooding.

Note the operating words in each definition: cover and overflow.

In general English speech and writing, however, the terms may be applied interchangeably where there is no risk of ambiguity.

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