The origin of a lake can be traced to three elements: (1) an environmental force, (2) a body of terrain reshaped by that force into a closed depression (basin), and (3) a water supply. A lake's principal environmental force at origination is the facet of its natural history most commonly used by scientists to guide the general classification of lake basins. The more specific process by which that force interacts with a body of terrain to create a closed depression is used by scientists to name distinct types of lake basins. In this article, 22 distinct types of lake basins deriving from 10 principal environmental forces are described. These principal forces include glacial, tectonic, volcanic, fluvial, organism behavior, chemical, wind, landslide, shoreline, and meteorite. Glacial, tectonic, and fluvial forces together account for the origin of about 90% of the Earth's current inventory of lake basins, with glacial force being far more important than all the others combined.