Derived from its use as a descriptor of receptacles and containers, a pan is a hollow or depression in the ground, especially one in which water stands. It may contain a small or large body of water, but it is always shallow and through evaporation may allow deposition of mineral properties, for instance salt. Such pans are common in the Great Basin region of the American West. The word frequently appears as part of compound nouns in geologic language—salt pan, ice pan, and in a somewhat different application (not necessarily a depression), hardpan.

John Keeble