Brook vs. Creek vs. Stream vs. River: Full Comparison (With Images)

Have you ever sat down to watch a nature documentary and heard words such as “Brook”, “Creek”, “Stream”, or “River”?
For some, they all seem like different words to describe the same thing. But in this article, we’re gonna look at what the differences between them are, and I’ll throw in some pictures to make it easier.

Brook Vs. Creek Vs. Stream Vs. River: What’s The Difference?

Although “Brook”, “Creek”, and “Stream” are all very closely related to each other, there are some differences.
A river is a large body of water that runs from the source to the mouth. A stream is a small river, and brooks & creeks are small streams.

Brook Vs. Creek Vs. Stream Vs. River: What's The Difference?
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Brook Vs. Creek Vs. Stream Vs. River: What They All Have In Common

Before we talk about the differences between them, it might be wise to start off with what they all have in common.

  • Water

All four of them involve water. If you put your foot in any of them, it will get wet.

  • They all flow from a source to a mouth

For those unfamiliar with geographical terms, the source is where they start, and the mouth is where they end.

  • They’re all caused by gravity

If it wasn’t for the force of gravity none of the things we’ll talk about today would be able to exist. Gravity is what pulls water from the source to the mouth.

Brooks And Creeks

Brooks And Creeks

What Are Brooks And Creeks?

Let’s start by looking at the Brooks and Creeks. In most general, day-to-day talking, the only difference is that “Brook” is the British term, and “Creek” is the American term.
This is incorrect, but we’ll get more onto that later.

With both brooks and creeks, they tend to be very narrow. So narrow in fact, that most people would easily be able to step over them. You probably see them a lot if you go into countrysides.

If you ever have a mucky shoe, find a brook/creek and you can clean them.

4 Sentences That Use “Brook” Or “Creek”

  1. “We walked down to the brook. It was quiet and peaceful. All we could hear was the water and the birds singing”

  2. “There was creek in the town I grew up in. It was called Gilly Town, despite how quiet and peaceful it was, it was only a couple of hours away from the big apple”.

  3. “My dog liked to dips his paws in the brook. He was getting older now, be he still loved the gentle water washing past him”

  4. “I first met my husband down by the creek. From the first ‘howdy’, I fell in love with him.

The Actual Difference Between Brooks And Creeks

Now, I know there are gonna be a few of you who are thinking “Um actually”. And you are correct, although in casual talk, “Brook” and “Creek” are synonymous, for a geographer, the two terms are slightly different.

A brook is just a small stream. If it’s like a stream, but you can step over it, you can call it a brook.

However, for a creek to be a creek, it has to be sheltered, usually by trees.

So, if you take a brook and add trees for shelter, it becomes a creek.



What Are Streams

Now, if we go up in size, but not too much, you end up with a stream.

Think of a steam like a smaller version of a river.

Unlike brooks and creeks, which are only restrained by their size, a stream is confined by the banks- the geographical term for edges. Of course, erosion can change their size, but if you took the water out, you could see where it was before. The same cannot be said for brooks and creeks.

Streams are still fairly small. Most people would be able to jump over a stream.

5 Sentences That Use “Stream”

  1. “We walked along the stream, trying to follow the fish. But they were way too fast for us to keep up with them”

  2. “We set up some eel traps at the stream. We wanted to catch as many as we could. And the ones we couldn’t would have a lovely life in the big river”

  3. “I know the river is big and dirty. But if you go to some of it’s streams, you’ll see nothing but clear waters, and fresh plants”

  4. “Some people say that salmon can swim up stream. But I don’t believe that to be true”

  5. “Row row row your boat. Gently down the stream”



What Are Rivers?

And finally, we come onto Rivers. These ones are huge masses of water that eventually lead onto the sea, or a large lake.

They are so big, that if you don’t have a boat, you’re probably gonna have to swim across- which can take a lot of time, and I am not fit enough to do that.

Unlike brooks, creeks, and streams, a river can drain the water from land, and often, they even change the fundamental landscape of a place. Many societies have thrived due to their closeness to a river.

4 Sentences That Use “Rivers”

  1. “The river Nile was the main reason that Egypt managed to boom as a civilisation. Because crops were so easy to grow, people could then focus on other things”

  2. “The River Thames is the biggest in the United Kingdom. If you ever go to London, it’s worth getting a boat ride down the river”

  3. “In the Amazon, the Amazon River provides the perfect road. All you need is some kind of boat”

  4. “The Mississippi River is the main reason why the American south had such a huge economic boom”.


And there we have the key differences between brooks, creeks, streams, and rivers.

When you’re chatting to people who don’t know any better, they might get all of them mixed up. And because they’re all related, that is understandable. However, the key difference between them is size. Brooks and Creeks are small enough to step over. Streams need to be jumped. And to cross a river you need to swim or have a boat.

The difference between a brook and a creek is that a creek is sheltered. But for most of us, the difference is the Brook is British and Creek is American.

Next time you watch a documentary that talks about these features, you should now have a better idea of what is being said.