5

Is the term "oxbow lake" used in both American and British English to describe billabongs?

Wiktionary has a definition for oxbow lake, but doesn't describe which varieties of English use it.

8
  • 2
    A canonical "oxbow lake" is created when an oxbow turn in a river cuts off, leaving a lake and a straighter section of river. I've never heard any other term in the US (though it should be noted that they are relatively rare in most of the US).
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 9 '16 at 22:28
  • Wiktionary is crap. But yes, in AmE 'oxbow lake' is used to describe what is called a billabong in Australia. I don't know if it's the same in BrE
    – Mitch
    Jan 9 '16 at 22:37
  • 5
    I had no idea that a billabong was an oxbow, as opposed some other kind of pool. You learn something evey day.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 9 '16 at 23:12
  • Billabong like Wadi is seasonal and flows at certain times of year. A billabong is also a 'backwater' and connects to a river when it fills after rain. As I've never seen either this is only an opinion, but it doesn't sound like an ox-bow.
    – Hugh
    Jan 10 '16 at 0:04
  • 1
    There is a very good Wikipedia article on Oxbow Lakes which gives plenty of examples in both the USA, Britain and mainland Europe. In direct answer to your question - yes the term Oxbow Lake is well understood in Britain. I learnt it at school where our geography master was at pains to point out that whilst our local Norfolk rivers provided many examples of ox-bow curves that the Norfolk Broads were quite definitely not ox-bow lakes. They were formed 'artificially' from early-medieval peat diggings.
    – WS2
    Jan 10 '16 at 1:06
5

According to Ngram the expression "oxbow lake" is used both in AmE and BrE.

The expression was originally an AmE one:

Oxbow:

  • also ox-bow, mid-14c., "wooden collar for an ox," from ox + bow (n.1). Meaning "semicircular bend in a river" is from 1797, American English (New England); meaning "curved lake left after an oxbow meander has been cut off by a change in the river course" is from 1898. The reference is to similarity of shape.

(Etymonline)

From National geographic:

  • People often create oxbow lakes. The Mississippi River is shorter now than it was in the 19th century, for instance, because engineers have cut off hundreds of meanders. This created hundreds of oxbow lakes. These lakes eventually dried up to create acres of land for farming, housing, and industry.

  • An oxbow lake gets its name from the U-shaped collar placed around an oxs neck to which a plow is attached. It can also be called a horseshoe lake, a loop lake, or a cutoff lake.

From www.bbc.co.uk,

Oxbow lake:

enter image description here

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.