A pontoon is a flat boat that floats with the help of hollow tubes, also called pontoons. A lakeside resort might have pontoons and canoes that you can rent for the day.
The feature that distinguishes a pontoon, or pontoon boat, is the use of airtight cylinders to keep it buoyant. You can call these structures pontoons or floats, and they're used for things like houseboats, and some seaplanes that can land on water — and float there, thanks to pontoons. Sometimes pontoons are also used to support bridges and docks. The word stems from the Latin pontonem, "flat-bottomed boat," and its root pons, or "bridge."