What is the difference between a sinkhole and a pothole?

A sinkhole is a closed natural depression in the ground surface caused by removal of material below the ground and either collapse or gradual subsidence of the surface into the resulting void.

A pothole is usually a fairly small feature caused by failure of paving materials, usually associated with roads, parking lots, and airports. In the colder parts of the country, potholes become more abundant in late winter and spring because of freeze-thaw damage to pavements. But beware of international terminology: British cavers refer to caves as potholes and call cave exploring "potholing".

There’s also another kind of pothole. Parts of Canada and the central United States are covered by a region of wetlands called prairie potholes that were formed as Pleistocene Epoch glaciers receded around 12,000 years ago. The wetlands formed where water accumulated in small depressions in a landscape that is underlain by low-permeability glacial till. Prairie potholes are NOT collapse features. 

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Image: Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981
May 9, 1981

Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981

Photo 3 of 15: Community pool being undercut by a sinkhole. View to west across the sinkhole.

Image: Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981
May 9, 1981

Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981

Photo 2 of 15: Cars and house in a sinkhole. Auto mechanic’s garage intact. View to south across the sinkhole.

Image: Prairie Pothole Region

Prairie Pothole Region

Prairie Pothole Region landscape showing high wetland density.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Image: Sinkhole in Frederick, Maryland

Sinkhole in Frederick, Maryland

Cover-collapse sinkhole in limestone near Frederick, Maryland (September 2003). Many sinkholes occur along highways where rainwater runoff is concentrated into storm drains and ditches increasing the rate of sinkhole development (note the sewer drain pipe beneath roadway).

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Image shows a cave diver in a flooded cave

Cave Diver in a Flooded Cave

Cave passage and diver within a section of the Ox Bel Ha cave system where the current study was conducted. The guideline seen alongside the diver that provides a continuous route to the surface is one of many safety standard the divers follow. Photograph © HP Hartmann.