Word of the Week (159): SHOTT (probability 8718), by David Sutton

A SHOTT (or CHOTT) is a shallow lake or watercourse in N. Africa and the Middle East that tends to dry up in certain seasons. There are other words for the same or similar feature in other parts of the world. A PLAYA is a basin which becomes a shallow lake after heavy rainfall and dries out again in hot weather; this word comes from the Spanish, as does SALINA, a salt lake or lagoon. Afrikaans gives us VLY or VLEI, which again is low-lying ground where a shallow lake forms in the wet season.

A COWAL is a shallow lake or swamp in Australia, from an aboriginal language. A native Australian language also gives us GILGAI or GHILGAI, a saucer-shaped depression that forms a natural reservoir; these are perhaps too small to be called lakes, but might qualify as LAKELETS.

Bantu gives us NYANZA, which just means lake. Nearer home, we have the Scots LOCH, which can be a lake or an arm of the sea; a LOCHAN is a small loch. The Irish form of the word is LOUGH. A TARN is a small mountain lake, often found in a CIRQUE, which is a deep round hollow formed by glaciation.

As far as compounds of lake go, remember that LAKEBED, LAKEFRONT, LAKELAND, LAKELIKE, LAKEPORT, LAKESHORE and LAKESIDE are all good, while a LAKER is a type of ship which trades in the Great Lakes of N. America.

Let me end with the strange-looking word GYTTJA, a word from the Swedish which one feels should be the heroine of a Strindberg play but actually refers to the sediment on a lake bottom. The seasonal layers of such sediment are called VARVES, and like tree-rings can be useful in establishing chronology.


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