I am in need of a more concise word than "large body of water", something that can be used to describe a sea, ocean, gulf, etc. - is there such a word?

The particular usage I am looking for is to describe where ships travel, but not necessarily shipping lanes. I have also thought of using "open waters", but I wanted to ask if there are any other options.

  • I believe that sea, ocean, and gulf are all used specifically for certain types of large bodies of water and are part of their respective proper names. Open water might be the best (most popular) general term, but mileage may vary depending on its specific usage in your writing. – KnightHawk Oct 17 '14 at 16:27
  • I would say "sea". The term is used for lakes, inlets, oceans, and parts of an ocean. The only issue is that it usually refers to salt water, and use of the term on a freshwater lake would be "unusual". But for where a ship can go, that would be "navigable waters". – Hot Licks Sep 17 '15 at 11:59

You might consider waterbody but it is a less common word and it is often spelled as water body. It covers small bodies of water too but it depends on the context also.

A body of water or waterbody is any significant accumulation of water, generally on a planet's surface. The term body of water most often refers to large accumulations of water, such as oceans, seas, and lakes, but it includes smaller pools of water such as ponds, wetlands, or more rarely, puddles


Example usage:

Although Lake Victoria is a very useful waterbody for transport, a floating vegetation known as hyacinth is threatening its existence.

[Peak Revision K.C.S.E. Geography By M. W. Magu]

Though, you can consider waterway also:

A waterway is any navigable body of water. A shipping route consists of one or several waterways. Waterways can include rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, and canals.


  • waterway would be the term I was looking for, thanks. – user2813274 Oct 17 '14 at 20:45

You can use sea to refer to most large bodies of water on earth.

a : a great body of salt water that covers much of the earth;
broadly : the waters of the earth as distinguished from the land and air
b : a body of salt water of second rank more or less landlocked <the Mediterranean sea>
c : ocean
d : an inland body of water —used especially for names of such bodies <the Caspian Sea>
(Source: Merriam-Webster)


'Large body of water' is the best way to express it in English. There is no specific word such as you are asking about that means 'large body of water' (which is vague in any event: how large is 'large'?). We have oceans, seas, gulfs, lakes, ponds, estuaries, rivers, etc.

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