How Many Oceans Are There in the World?

how many ocean in the world

One of the most frequently asked questions is ” how many oceans are there in the world?” The answer to this question is very surprising to many. In this article, we will define the word “ocean”, distinguish between “sea” and “ocean” and answer the title question.

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Related Article: How Many Seas in the World Are There?

What Is an Ocean and How Many Oceans Are There in the World?

The ocean is a very large body of interconnected water that covers approximately 71% of the surface of the earth. This means that there is more water than landmass on earth. The earth actually does not have oceans despite what you may have heard. The entire 71% of the water that covers the earth is actually one ocean, referred to as “one global ocean”.

The earth does not have several oceans but one global ocean, the reference to different types of oceans is rather a reference to the geographic regions in which the waters of the one global ocean is situated.

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How Many Oceans Are There in the World?

The Geographic Regions of the Ocean

Oceanographers have identified 5 geographic regions of the ocean, these are:

  1. Pacific
  2. Atlantic
  3. Indian
  4. Arctic
  5. Southern

What Are the 5 Oceans of the World?

As stated above, there is one global ocean with 5 regions. These five regions are often referred to in their singular form as an ocean, e.g Pacific ocean, Atlantic ocean, etc, when in fact the best terms to use are “5 regions of the ocean” or ” 5 oceanic divisions” or “5 oceanic basins” or “5 ocean basins”. In some literature, you may see reference to 4 regions as the 5th region “Southern” is newly recognized. The 5th region has received recognition from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and other bodies, but its boundary has not yet been ratified by the International Hydrographic Organization which is the main international authority on the matter of definition as it relates to water bodies.

How Many Oceans Are There in the World?

Which Ocean Is the Largest?

Again, the title above is another frequently asked question that is structured to acknowledge that there is more than one ocean when we have only one global ocean with 5 oceanic basins. Since we know the question is asking about basins, the answer will be specific to which Oceanic Basin is the largest.

The Pacific basin is the largest and deepest of all 5 oceanic basins. It contains more than half of the approximately 71% of the water on the earth’s surface, covering an estimated 63 million square miles.

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Which Ocean Basin Is the Smallest?

The Arctic basin is the smallest of the 5 basins

The term “seven seas” originated in ancient times and its meaning has evolved although some have used the term mistakenly with an actual belief that there are only seven seas in the world, when in fact there are many. The current definition for seven seas and the definition that has been retained, over time, is that the “seven seas” are actually a further division of the 5 oceanic basins. So it compromises the following: the Arctic, South Atlantic, North Atlantic, South Pacific, North Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans.

The Seven Seas
The Seven Seas

What Is the Difference Between the Ocean and the Sea?

The ocean refers to the very large body of interconnected water that covers the majority (over 71%) of the earth’s surface. The word sea and ocean are often used interchangeably, however, a sea is a large body of saltwater located in the ocean but is distinctly characterized by a partial enclosure by land. Seas are usually found on the margins of the 5 oceanic basins. The exception to this definition is the Sargasso Sea which is in the Atlantic Oceanic basin and is without a land boundary.

 Sargasso Sea
Sargasso Sea


As a traveler, it is good to have an understanding of the various terminologies as you discover the world. Let’s not make a blunder in our discussions but have an appearance of being knowledgeable on geographic and oceanic matters.

<strong>Lori Lewis, The Travel Virgin</strong>
Lori Lewis, The Travel Virgin

Researcher, avid traveler, and explorer of all things travel related.

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