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See more synonyms for oxbow on Thesaurus.com
  1. a U-shaped piece of wood placed under and around the neck of an ox with its upper ends in the bar of the yoke.
  2. Physical Geography, Geology.
    1. a bow-shaped bend in a river, or the land embraced by it.
    2. Also called oxbow lake.a bow-shaped lake formed in a former channel of a river.
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Origin of oxbow

Middle English word dating back to 1325–75; see origin at ox, bow2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for oxbow lake


  1. a U-shaped piece of wood fitted under and around the neck of a harnessed ox and attached to the yoke
  2. Also called: oxbow lake, cutoff a small curved lake lying on the flood plain of a river and constituting the remnant of a former meander
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for oxbow lake



also ox-bow, mid-14c., "wooden collar for an ox," from ox + bow (n.1). Meaning "semicircular bend in a river" is from 1797, American English (New England); meaning "curved lake left after an oxbow meander has been cut off by a change in the river course" is from 1898. The reference is to similarity of shape.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

oxbow lake in Science

oxbow lake

  1. A crescent-shaped lake formed when a river changes its course and cuts through the strip of land in the middle of an oxbow, abandoning its previous course and isolating the water in the oxbow.
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  1. A sharp, U-shaped bend in a river. The bend is so sharp that only a narrow neck of land is left between the two parts of the river.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.