Antarctic subglacial lakes provide аn important boundary condition for thermal analysis of the ice sheet in that the basal ice temperature over lakes may be assumed to be at the pressure-melting point. We have used a one-dimensional vertical heat-transfer equation to determine theoretical temperature values for the ice-sheet base above 77 subglacial lakes identified from airborne radio-echo-sounding data covering 50% of Antarctica. Variations in our temperature results to below the pressure-melting temperature over lakes are due to either our estimate of the geothermal heat flux or a neglect of heat derived from (a) internal ice deformation and (b) basal sliding, in the thermal model. Our results indicate that, when the geothermal heat flux is set at 54 m W m−2, the ice-sheet base above 70% of the known Antarctic subglacial lakes is calculated to be at the pressure-melting value. These lakes are located mainly around Dome C, Ridge B and Vostok station. For the ice sheet above subglacial lakes located hundreds of kilometres from the ice divide, using the same thermal model, loss of heat due to vertical advection is calculated to be relatively high. In such regions, if the ice-sheet base is at the pressure-melting point, heat lost due to vertical advection must be supplemented by heat from other sources. For the three lakes beneath Terre Adélie and George V Land, for instance, the basal thermal gradient calculated to produce pressure melting at the ice-sheet base is equivalent to 1.5–2 times the value obtained when 54 m W m−2 of geothermal heat is used as the sole basal thermal component. We suggest that, as distance from the ice divide increases, so too does the amount of heat due to internal ice deformation and basal sliding. Moreover, by considering the ice-sheet basal thermal characteristics above subglacial lakes which lie on the same ice flowline, we demonstrate empirically that the heat due to these horizontal ice-motion terms varies pseudo-exponentially with distance from the ice divide. The location along a flowline where a rapid increase in the basal heat gradient is calculated may correspond to the onset of large-scale basal sliding.