[bey-suh n]
  1. a circular container with a greater width than depth, becoming smaller toward the bottom, used chiefly to hold water or other liquid, especially for washing.
  2. any container of similar shape, as the pan of a balance.
  3. the quantity held by such a container: We need another basin of water to dilute the mixture.
  4. a natural or artificial hollow place containing water.
  5. a partially enclosed, sheltered area along a shore, often partly man-made or dredged to a greater depth, where boats may be moored: a yacht basin.
  6. Geology. an area in which the strata dip from the margins toward a common center.
  7. Physical Geography.
    1. a hollow or depression in the earth's surface, wholly or partly surrounded by higher land: river basin.
    2. drainage basin.
  8. Botany. the depression in an apple, pear, or other pome at the end opposite the stem.

Origin of basin

1175–1225; Middle English bacin < Old French < Late Latin bac(c)īnum (bacc(a) water vessel, back3 + -īnum -ine1); perhaps further related in Latin to beaker
Related formsba·sin·al, adjectiveba·sined, adjectiveba·sin·like, adjectivein·ter·ba·sin, adjectivesub·ba·sin, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for subbasin


  1. a round container open and wide at the top with sides sloping inwards towards the bottom or base, esp one in which liquids are mixed or stored
  2. Also called: basinful the amount a basin will hold
  3. a washbasin or sink
  4. any partially enclosed or sheltered area where vessels may be moored or docked
  5. the catchment area of a particular river and its tributaries or of a lake or sea
  6. a depression in the earth's surface
  7. geology a part of the earth's surface consisting of rock strata that slope down to a common centre

Word Origin for basin

C13: from Old French bacin, from Late Latin bacchīnon, from Vulgar Latin bacca (unattested) container for water; related to Latin bāca berry
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 subbasin



"large shallow vessel or dish," c.1200, from Old French bacin (11c., Modern French bassin), from Vulgar Latin *baccinum, from *bacca "water vessel," perhaps originally Gaulish. Meaning "large-scale artificial water-holding landscape feature" is from 1712. Geological sense of "tract of country drained by one river or draining into one sea" is from 1830.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

subbasin in Science


  1. A region drained by a river and its tributaries.
  2. A low-lying area on the Earth's surface in which thick layers of sediment have accumulated. Some basins are bowl-shaped while others are elongate. Basins form through tectonic processes, especially in fault-bordered intermontane areas or in areas where the Earth's crust has warped downwards. They are often a source of valuable oil.
  3. An artificially enclosed area of a river or harbor designed so that the water level remains unaffected by tidal changes.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.