ri·​par·​i·​an rə-ˈper-ē-ən How to pronounce riparian (audio)
: relating to or living or located on the bank of a natural watercourse (such as a river) or sometimes of a lake or a tidewater
riparian trees

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Riparian came to English from the same source that gave us "river"—the Latin riparius, a noun deriving from ripa, meaning "bank" or "shore." First appearing in English in the 19th century, "riparian" refers to things that exist alongside a river (such as riparian wetlands, habitats, trees, etc.). Some river communities have laws called "riparian rights," referring to the rights of those owning land along a river to have access to the waterway. Note the distinction of this word from "littoral," which usually refers to things that occur along the shore of a sea or ocean.

Examples of riparian in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web During migration season in Arizona, these hummingbirds can be observed in a variety of habitats, including desert scrub and riparian areas. The Arizona Republic, 10 Apr. 2024 The beach is also home to several diverse habitats, including riparian, estuarine, coastal dune and marine. Nathan Solis, Los Angeles Times, 18 Mar. 2024 The least bell’s vireo has been listed on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list since 1986, in part due to the loss of its riparian habitat from human development. Maura Fox, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Feb. 2024 The researchers assessed riparian habitat to study the impacts of elk browsing on willow growth in northern parts of Yellowstone. Sage Marshall, Field & Stream, 15 Feb. 2024 In 2023, the 1,000-member Cocopah Tribe, whose lands lie along the Colorado River southwest of Yuma, received $5 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's America the Beautiful Challenge to support two riparian restoration initiatives. The Arizona Republic, 21 Mar. 2024 Endangered species:Damage to riparian areas where cattle graze renews debate over use of public lands in Arizona Why was flycatchers’ endangered status challenged? Hayleigh Evans, The Arizona Republic, 1 Mar. 2024 The bird can be seen in riparian areas, which are the transition zones between land and waterways such as rivers and streams. Maura Fox, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Feb. 2024 The Central Valley historically had about 4 million acres of wetlands and riparian areas, forming a vast watery mosaic of marshes, vernal pools, rivers in braided channels and lakes fringed with tules and forests. Ian James, Los Angeles Times, 20 Feb. 2024

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

Word History


Latin riparius — more at river

First Known Use

1807, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of riparian was in 1807


Dictionary Entries Near riparian

Cite this Entry

“Riparian.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Legal Definition


ri·​par·​i·​an rə-ˈper-ē-ən How to pronounce riparian (audio)
: of or relating to or living or located on the bank of a watercourse (as a river or stream) or sometimes a lake
broadly : of or relating to or living or located on the bank of a body of water compare littoral
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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