This is what I learn from dictionaries

We use "bank" for "river/stream" or "canal" and "shore" for "ocean/sea" or "lake".

But, it seems like some native English speakers also use "bank" for "lake".

I feel like we use "bank" for something that has parallel edges like "river/stream" or "canal", and "shore" for something that has a complete loop like "lake" or "sea".

Do we use "bank" for "lake", for example, "she is sitting on the bank of the lake"?

What about a pond which is a man-made lake?

Do we say "she is sitting on the shore of the pond" or "the bank of the pond"?

  • 6
    Lakes have shores and oceans have shores, streams have banks, but ponds typically have "edges". She sat by the edge of the pond. Though shore of the pond is sometimes used, if it's a very big pond. Aug 7, 2023 at 10:21
  • 4
    What native speakers use "bank" for lake? Note that "bank" has a separate meaning, referring to a mound, pile, or ridge of earth, so it's possible to have one of those anywhere including by a lake.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 7, 2023 at 11:47
  • 2
    While the orginal meaning of "pond" is "artificial lake", it is now often used for small lakes, regardless of how they are formed, and "lake" is similarly used for larger ones, regardless of how they formed.
    – James K
    Aug 7, 2023 at 12:14
  • 1
    And there are three kinds of banks, typically steep ones caused by flowing water, and ones that typically have a gradual slope whose shape and appearance are the result of the lapping of small waves or seasonal rise and fall of the water level, and ones that were artificially created by digging.
    – TimR
    Aug 7, 2023 at 12:58
  • I would say ''on the side of the pond'' if it is a small pond. Aug 7, 2023 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


The words have different connotations.

A "bank" suggests a fairly steeply sloping piece of land, that is covered with grass or other vegetation. It normally remains above the waterline, allowing land plant to grow there. A "bank" doesn't have to be associated with any water.

A "shore" suggests land that is "washed by the sea", in particular the part between the tides, but by extension, something similar on a large lake. It may be rocky or sandy, but the action of waves or tides tends to restrict the growth of land plants.

It would probably be most common just to say "sit by a lake". But if the lake has a "bank" around it, you could say "sit on the bank of the lake", and if there is a shore (which would typically be with larger lakes) you could say sit on the lake-shore.

Ponds, which are smaller, are unlikely to have a "shore", they may or may not be surrounded by a bank.

  • 2
    While I broadly agree, I feel "edge" is probably a bit more natural when it comes to a relatively small pond. But it's interesting to speculate at what point the edge of a small pond becomes the shore of a large lake... possibly when you can no longer see the other side. Aug 7, 2023 at 19:47
  • @MarkMorganLloyd: Not only are ponds smaller, but they don't have water flowing through them in ways that would prevent grass or other such vegetation from growing on the land right next to the water line. A shoreline would represent a constantly changing boundary between land and water would be constantly changing. A river bank is a boundary that is engineered not to move. The edge of a pond would often be a boundary that is relatively stationary simply because there aren't any forces of nature that act upon it strongly enough to move it.
    – supercat
    Aug 7, 2023 at 20:41
  • @MarkMorganLloyd A small constructed lake with a sandy beach definitely has a shore (in my idiolect). If a small lake doesn't have a sandy beach, though, it might not have a shore. Aug 7, 2023 at 23:15

Cambridge dictionary definition of 'shore':

the land along the edge of a sea, lake, or wide river

So that's the technical answer - yes, a river or lake can have a 'shore'. But, it's not common to hear anything but the sea having a shore. In fact, it's so closely associated with the sandy edge of a coastline that we have the compound noun 'seashore'.


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