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Why do seaplanes "land" on water?

In Greek there is a different verb for landing on the ground and landing on seawater. There is also a different verb if you land on non salty water. Is there a different verb in English , because it really sounds funny to say " The seaplane landed on water". I found 'ditch" but this is only for an emergency. Can you hep me?


  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited February 2019


    because it really sounds funny to say " The seaplane landed on water"

    Not to an English speaker.

    1. Landquite often means 'end up' in a particular place — or, metaphorically, in a particular state.
      As early as 1679 someone wrote:

    Landing by the first pair of Stairs with your Face towards the East.

    Nowadays we're more likely to say land up.

    1. Of an aircraft coming to a halt, land is used whatever the surface. Here's one OED definition:

    8b. To alight upon the ground, e.g. from a vehicle, after a leap, etc. Esp. of an aircraft or spacecraft, or a person in one: to alight upon or reach the ground, or some other surface, after a flight.

    The earliest use quoted is from 1693, where it meant 'get out of a coach'.

    The earliest quote referring to an aëroplane ( spelled thus) landing is from 1899.

    A writer in 1917 put quotes around the word, presumably to signal that the use was a novelty

    When the sea is calm the pilot often finds it anything but easy to see when to flatten out to ‘land’.

    But a previous author had written in 1911 without quotes

    Ely's remarkable feat in landing on the deck of a warship in the harbour of San Francisco.

    And there are no quotes around the word by 1930._

    1930 She [sc. a flying boat] circled the station and then landed in comparatively calm water.

    And in 1969 Buzz Aldrin reported from the Moon:

    The Eagle has landed.

    Another OED definition uses on but omits to say 'aircraft carrier'.

    8d. With on. Of an aircraft: to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Hence l_anding-on_ n.

    For example:

    They took off and landed on without difficulty, completely independent of the sea.

    There's no point in asking why. That's just how it is. And we can't 'help' you if the facts are a problem for you.

    If you're desperate to translate the Greek verb, you can say alight on the water.

  • Thank you for all this information , although the ending of your answer was a bit sarcastic and offensive. I guess my saying that it sounds a bit funny might have offended you (I can't find another explanation for such a response). If that is the case then I am really sorry. I just really wondered if there is another verb that can be used and I didn't know about. But even you, having English as a mother tongue, can see the oxymoron in this sentence. Thanks anyway.

  • @theodora, my whole point is that as an English speaker I don't feel the slightest hint of oxymoron.

    I said there's no point is asking why words mean what they mean, because that is my firm conviction.

    The meaning of a word is the way it is used.

    Land is simply not a translation of the Greek equivalent, but you can use, for example, alight on the water or touch down on the sea or similar if you want your English translation to be close to a Greek original.

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