Sound (geography): Wikis


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For the physical phenomena see Category:Sound
Northern Øresund
The Aldersund in Helgeland (Norway) separates the island of Aldra (left side) from the continent.
A live oak on Knotts Island, North Carolina overlooks the Currituck Sound.

In geography a sound or seaway is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, wider than a fjord, or it may identify a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land (see also strait).

There is little consistency in the use of 'sound' in English-language place names.


In colloquial slang, the Sound is used as a short name for the Øresund, the strait that separates Sjælland, the largest island of Denmark, from Sweden. It connects the Kattegat with the Baltic Sea. The most narrow part is only 2.5 miles or 4 kilometers wide. In the more general northern European usage, a sund is a strait or the most narrow part of a strait. In the Baltic Sea and in Norway, there are more than a hundred straits named Sund, mostly called after the island they separate from the continent or a larger island.

In areas explored by the British in the late 18th Century, particularly the northwest coast of North America, the term 'sound' was applied to inlets containing large islands (e.g. Puget Sound, Howe Sound) and also bodies of open water still not fully open ocean (Queen Charlotte Sound, Caamaño Sound) or broadenings or mergings at the openings of inlets (Fitz Hugh Sound, Cross Sound).

In the United States, Long Island Sound separates Long Island from the coast of Connecticut, but on the Atlantic Ocean side of Long Island, the body of water between the ocean and its barrier beaches is termed the Great South Bay. Pamlico Sound is a similar lagoon that lies between North Carolina and its barrier beaches, the Outer Banks, in a similar situation. The Mississippi Sound separates the Gulf of Mexico from the mainland along much of the gulf coasts of Mississippi and Alabama. On the West Coast, Puget Sound, by contrast, is a deep arm of the ocean.

A sound is often formed by the sea flooding a river valley. This produces a long inlet where the sloping valley hillsides descend to sea-level and continue beneath the water to form a sloping sea floor. The Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand are a good example of this type of formation.

Sometimes a sound is produced by a glacier carving out a valley on the coast then receding, or the sea invading a glacier valley. The glacier produces a sound that often has steep, near vertical, sides that extend deep under water. The sea floor is often flat and deeper at the landward end than the seaward end, due to glacial moraine deposits. This type of sound is more properly termed a fjord (or fiord). The sounds in Fiordland, New Zealand, have been formed this way.

A sound generally connotes a protected anchorage.


There are two possible explanations of the origin of the word:

It can be derived from Anglo-Saxon or Old Norse sund, which also means "swimming"; it may have originally meant "sea strait narrow enough for a man to swim across".

The word sund is already documented in Old Norse and Old English in the meaning of "gap" (or "narrow access"). This suggests a relation to verbs meaning "to separate" such as sondre (Norwegian), sondra (Swedish), German absondern and aussondern, as well as the English noun sin, Swedish synd, German Sünde ("apart from God's law"). Swedish has also the adjective sönder = "broken", and English has the adjective "asunder".

Puget Sound taken from the Space Needle.

Bodies of water called sounds




Great Sound towards the archipelago's southwest end

British Isles

British Virgin Islands


Cayman Islands

Falkland Islands


New Zealand


Solomon Islands

United States

United States Virgin Islands

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