ar·​royo ə-ˈrȯi-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce arroyo (audio)
plural arroyos
: a watercourse (such as a creek) in an arid region
: a water-carved gully or channel

Examples of arroyo in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Hikers can see California buckwheat, arroyo willow, black sage, big berry manzanita and hairy ceanothus. Summer Lin, Los Angeles Times, 8 Apr. 2024 Cathy McGrath is among the closest neighbors to the project, with a home backing onto the mountains and just across an arroyo from where the company intends to move mine tailings. Brandon Loomis, The Arizona Republic, 7 Mar. 2024 The hole is tricky because getting to the green requires hitting over an arroyo, a drainage channel, that has been densely lined with concertina wire. J. David Goodman, New York Times, 16 Feb. 2024 For this Sedona house, the intent was to retain water on the property and not overwhelm the arroyo behind it. Kristin Guy, Sunset Magazine, 30 Jan. 2024 More rain is expected to cause dangerous flash, urban and arroyo flooding in some places, including landslides, mudslides and debris flows. Nouran Salahieh, CNN, 21 Aug. 2023 But the violations stretch back to the early 1980s, when prior owners Ken and Jeannette Chiate and Marilyn and Roger Wolk wrongly recorded the location of the easement along a steep grade instead of a gently sloped arroyo, according to the report. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 7 June 2023 Letteriello got permission from state wildlife officials to bring in two dozen native arroyo chub minnows for the pond from San Juan Creek, along the Ortega Highway. Jeanette Marantos, Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2023 The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office also found a photo on the cellphone of armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed that showed an unidentified man shooting a pistol in a New Mexico arroyo several days before the tragedy. Meg James, Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'arroyo.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Spanish, probably of pre-Latin substratal origin

Note: The word arroyo is traditionally compared with Latin arrugia, a word used by Pliny (Historia naturalis 33.70) for galleries excavated into mountainsides in the Iberian peninsula to extract gold. Presumably the word was extended from the sense "artificial passageway" to "natural passageway" (or vice versa, if "natural passageway" was the original sense). In medieval documents of Asturias, from 775 on, arogium and variants occur as latinized forms of the vernacular word.

First Known Use

1777, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of arroyo was in 1777

Dictionary Entries Near arroyo

Cite this Entry

“Arroyo.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


ar·​royo ə-ˈrȯi-ə How to pronounce arroyo (audio)
plural arroyos
: a waterway (as a creek) in a dry region
: an often dry gully or channel carved by water

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