The difference between wharf, pier and jetty as seen in art

by | Jun 10, 2022 | Maritime Art, Culture and History, Media, Communications and Language

How can one tell if it’s a wharf, a pier or a jetty? The question can stump non-maritime professionals. But even some seafarers may not be able to give a satisfactory answer. Dictionaries provide varying definitions, some of which can be a bit vague. The following works of art should be of help to those who sometimes or often get confused by the terms.


A level quayside area to which a ship may be moored to load and unload (

A structure on the shore of a harbour or on the bank of a river or canal where ships may dock to load and unload cargo or passengers (Wikipedia)

Wharf Scene, Gloucester, no date
Oil on canvas
Bertha E. Perrie (American, 1868–1921)
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Orange Wharf with Dockhands Unloading Boxes from Ships, 1873
Etching with toolwork
Matthew White Ridley (British, 1837–1888
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art


A raised structure that rises above a body of water and usually juts out from its shore, typically supported by piles or pillars, and provides above-water access to offshore areas (Wikipedia)

A long structure sticking out from the land over the sea, where people can walk or large boats can be tied, sometimes with restaurants and places of entertainment on it (Cambridge Dictionary)

Brighton Pier, c. 1828
Watercolour on paper
John Constable (English, 1776–1837)
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Pier at Lamor, 1885
Charles Adams Platt (American, 1861–1933)
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art


A structure that projects from land out into water. A jetty may serve as a breakwater, as a walkway, or both; or, in pairs, as a means of constricting a channel. (Wikipedia)

A landing stage or small pier at which boats can dock or be moored. (

The Jetty. St. Ives. Evening, no date
Oil on canvas
Terrick Williams (British, 1860–1936)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

End of the Jetty, Honfleur, 1886
Oil on canvas
Georges Seurat (French, 1859–1891)
Courtesy of WikiArt: Visual Art Encyclopedia

~ Barista Uno

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