Loch (pronounced /ˈlɒx/, and often as /ˈlɒk/ to most English speakers) is the Irish and Scottish Gaelic term for a lake or a sea inlet. It has been anglicised as lough, although this is pronounced the same way as loch. Some lochs could also be called a firth, fjord, estuary, strait or bay. Sea-inlet lochs are often called sea lochs or sea loughs.
This name for a body of water is Goidelic in origin and is applied to most lakes in Scotland and to many sea inlets in the west and north of Scotland. The word is Indo-European in origin; cf. Latin lacus, English 'lake'.
Lowland Scots orthography, like Scottish Gaelic and Irish, represents /x/ with ch, so the word was borrowed with identical spelling.
English borrowed the word separately from a number of loughs in Northumbria and Cumbria. Earlier forms of English included the sound /x/ as gh (compare Scots bricht with English bright). This form was therefore used when the English settled Ireland. However, by the time Scotland and England joined under a single parliament, English had lost the /x/ sound, so the Scots convention of using CH remained, hence the modern Scottish English loch.
Many of the loughs in Northern England have also previously been called "meres" (a Northern English dialect word for "lake" and an archaic Standard English word meaning "a lake that is broad in relation to its depth") such as the Black Lough in Northumberland. However, reference to the latter as lochs or loughs (lower case initial), rather than as lakes, inlets and so on, is unusual.
Although there is no strict size definition, a small loch is often known as a lochan (so spelled also in Scottish Gaelic; in Irish it is spelled lochán).
Perhaps the most famous Scottish loch is Loch Ness, although there are other large examples such as Loch Awe, Loch Lomond and Loch Tay.
Examples of sea lochs in Scotland include Loch Long, Loch Fyne, Loch Linnhe, Loch Eriboll, Loch Tristan, Trisloch.
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