Here we see the different terminology for wharf, a pier, a jetty and a quay - which all depend on whether they are built on piles or fill; extending out from shore or parallel to shore.

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Strangely missing from this is floating platforms - pontoons.

My question is: Are there different names for a pontoon if it is parallel or extending out from the shore?

  • 1
    I'd guess that you can have a pontoon wharf and a pontoon pier, just like a pontoon bridge. Just a guess.
    – Drew
    Jun 11, 2016 at 2:38
  • Good question about pontoons, but I disagree with your divisions for wharf, pier and jetty. Historically a pier could also be built as a solid structure (see here), and jetty can be defined as a wharf or landing pier. I've always thought of jetties as small piers, and generally built on piles. Jun 11, 2016 at 2:48
  • 2
    Pontoons are just structural components. You can make what you like out of them. Does a brick have a different name on the front of the house vs the side of a house? You can look at Bellingham for modern terminology.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jun 11, 2016 at 3:19

3 Answers 3


Pontoon refers to the floating temporary support—a component—not the full structure as with the others you mention. A pontoon does not require connection to land.

Key here is the means of placement as well as the configuration. Other structures you refer to are not moveable, per se.


From Wikipedia on "Mulberry Harbours,"

The "Mulberry" harbours consisted of a floating outer breakwaters called "Bombardons,"


...and floating piers or roadways codenamed "Whales" and "Beetles."

The page refers to but does not name German temporary harbours (e.g. in the Channel Islands)

  • 1
    These are military codenames, which are used so that anybody who doesn't know what the code stands for will be confused. Some codenames, like tanks (which don't look much like actual tanks) eventually become part of the English language. Most, like tube alloys, don't. A bombardon is a bass tuba, not any structure floating on water. Jun 11, 2016 at 13:10

A pontoon may be used as a component in a floating pier or floating wharf. A "pontoon", so far as I am familiar with it, is a single floating element which may be used to build a wharf, pier, or bridge (or which may exist on its own, as, say, a diving platform).

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