Though generally recognized as several 'separate' oceans, these waters comprise one global, interconnected body of salt water often referred to as the World Ocean or global ocean.
This concept of a global ocean as a continuous body of water with relatively free interchange among its parts is of fundamental importance to oceanography.
The major oceanic divisions are defined in part by the continents, various archipelagos, and other criteria: these divisions are (in descending order of size) the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean (which is sometimes subsumed as the southern portions of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans), and the Arctic Ocean (which is sometimes considered a sea of the Atlantic).
The Pacific and Atlantic may be further subdivided by the equator into northerly and southerly portions.
Smaller regions of the oceans are called seas, gulfs, bays and other names.
There are also some smaller bodies of saltwater that are totally landlocked and not interconnected with the World Ocean, such as the Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea, and the Great Salt Lake – though they may be referred to as 'seas', they are actually salt lakes.
Geologically, an ocean is an area of oceanic crust covered by water.
Oceanic crust is the thin layer of solidified volcanic basalt that covers the Earth's mantle where there are no continents.
From this perspective, there are three oceans today: the World Ocean, the Caspian and the Black Seas, the latter two of which were formed by the collision of Cimmeria with Laurasia.
The Mediterranean Sea is very nearly a discrete ocean, being connected to the World Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar, and indeed several times over the last few million years movement of the African continent has closed the strait off entirely.
The Black Sea is connected to the Mediterranean through the Bosporus, but this is in effect a natural canal cut through continental rock some 7,000 years ago, rather than a piece of oceanic sea floor like the Strait of Gibraltar.