When it comes to the world’s bodies of water, there are many terms used to describe them. It can be confusing to differentiate between them, so here is a breakdown of the differences between ocean, sea, gulf, and sound.
An ocean is the largest body of saltwater on Earth. It covers more than 70% of the planet’s surface and is divided into four main oceans: the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Arctic Ocean. Oceans are connected by smaller bodies of water such as seas and gulfs.
A sea is a large body of saltwater that is partially enclosed by land. Seas are usually smaller than oceans but larger than gulfs or sounds. Examples include the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, and Caribbean Sea.
A gulf is a large bay that extends into land from an ocean or sea. Gulfs are usually much smaller than seas or oceans and often have a narrow opening to the larger body of water. Examples include the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California.
Finally, a sound is a narrow channel between two landmasses that connects two larger bodies of water such as an ocean or sea. Sounds are usually much narrower than gulfs and can be quite deep in some cases. Examples include Puget Sound in Washington State and Long Island Sound in New York State.
Oceans are the largest bodies of saltwater on Earth while seas are partially enclosed by land and smaller than oceans but larger than gulfs or sounds. Gulfs are large bays that extend into land from an ocean or sea while sounds are narrow channels between two landmasses that connect two larger bodies of water such as an ocean or sea.