The Sea of Azov is a sea in south-eastern Europe. To the south it is linked by the narrow (about 4 km or 2.5 mi) Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea, and it is sometimes regarded as a northern extension of the Black Sea. The sea is bounded in the north by mainland Ukraine, in the east by Russia, and in the west by the Crimean Peninsula. The Don and Kuban are the major rivers that flow into it. The Sea of Azov is the shallowest sea in the world, with the depth varying between 0.9 and 14 meters (2 ft 11 in and 45 ft 11 in). There is a constant outflow of water from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.
The sea is largely affected by the inflow of numerous rivers, which bring sand, silt, and shells, which in turn form numerous bays, limans, and narrow spits. Because of these deposits, the sea bottom is relatively smooth and flat with the depth gradually increasing toward the middle. Also, due to the river inflow, water in the sea has low salinity and a high amount of biomass (such as green algae) that affects the water colour. Abundant plankton results in unusually high fish productivity. The sea shores and spits are low; they are rich in vegetation and bird colonies.
The name likely derives from the settlement of and area around Azov, whose name comes from the Kipchak Turkish asak or azaq ("lowlands"). A Russian folk etymology, however, instead derives it from an eponymous Cuman prince named "Azum" or "Asuf", said to have been killed defending his town in 1067. A formerly common spelling of the name in English was the Sea of Azoff, which is closer to the Russian pronunciation.
In antiquity, the sea was usually known as the Maeotis Swamp from the marshlands to its northeast.[ It remains unclear whether it was named for the nearby Maeotians or if that name was applied broadly to various peoples who happened to live beside it. Other names included Lake Maeotis or Maeotius (Mæotius or Mæotis Lacus); the Maeotium or Maeotic Sea (Mæotium or Mæoticum Æquor); the Cimmerian or Scythican Swamps (Cimmeriae or Scythicæ Paludes); and the Cimmerian or Bosporic Sea (Cimmericum or Bosporicum Mare). The Maeotians themselves were said by Pliny to call the sea Temarenda or Temerinda, meaning "Mother of Waters".
The medieval Russians knew it as the Sea of Surozh after the adjacent city now known as Sudak. It was known in Ottoman Turkish as the Balük-Denis ("Fish Sea") from its high productivity.