In the meaning "an issue of water from the earth, taking the form, on the surface, of a small stream or standing as a pool or small lake" (from Dictionary), what is the difference between spring and source? Are they interchangeable?

  • 2
    The difference is that a spring identifies a spot where (underground) water rises to the surface. Feasibly, that water may rapidly evaporate or drain back underground without really "going" anywhere. But if the water flows above ground, perhaps augmented by other springs, and eventually becomes, say, a river, you might describe the original spring as the source of that river (i.e. - where it came from). You wouldn't normally call it a "source" in isolation - only in reference to whatever it's the source of. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 13 '15 at 14:59

There is a difference in usage.

A spring is the upwelling of water from underground, with a visible flow.
A source is the commencement of a river or stream, it may be a lake or pond with no perceptible inflow.

In more detail: At a spring, you see water visibly issuing from the ground. It may then flow into a pond or may flow away in a stream. The water may be warm, depending upon the depth from which it comes. The rate of flow doesn't matter.

A river's source is simply the point at which it starts. This can be a pond that fills from water flowing down from a hill, the flow into this pond is not necessarily noticeable as a flow.

So, a spring may be the source of a river but a source is not necessarily a spring.

| improve this answer | |

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