noun, often attributive
riv·​er | \ˈri-vər \

Definition of river 

1a : a natural stream of water of usually considerable volume

b : watercourse

2a : something resembling a river a river of lava

b rivers plural : large or overwhelming quantities drank rivers of coffee

up the river

: to or in prison was sent up the river

Examples of river in a Sentence

The raft is too small to use on this part of the river. Rivers of mud flowed down the hillside.

Recent Examples on the Web

One of our favorite features is the bay window with a panoramic view of the river in the living room. Sienna Fantozzi, House Beautiful, "Scarlett Johansson Just Bought A New House In New York, And It's Stunning," 12 Oct. 2018 Fishermen in the area spotted the body along the bank of the river face up. Katherine Lam, Fox News, "Missing CDC employee's body found in river weeks after disappearance, police say," 2 Oct. 2018 They were pulled from the car and shot multiple times along the banks of the river, a little more than 50 miles east of Atlanta. Kate Brumback, The Seattle Times, "Historian seeks grand jury transcripts in notorious lynching," 2 Oct. 2018 Below the pleasant chirping of woodland birds and the rush of the river lies rot; the game’s forest is in upheaval and blood is about to be shed. Charlie Theel, Ars Technica, "Root is a terrific—and fully asymmetric—woodland wargame," 29 Sep. 2018 With a population of about 200,000, Windsor sits across a narrow stretch of river from downtown Detroit and is known as Canada’s car capital due to its proximity to the heart of the U.S. auto industry. Chester Dawson, WSJ, "Canada’s Auto Capital Caught in Crossfire of Trade Dispute," 19 Aug. 2018 On top of the building there’s a slanting green pathway that serves as a footbridge connecting one side of the river to the other. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Stunning Nordic town hall is part of the landscape," 6 Aug. 2018 Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Ann Dowd, Glamour, "Actress Ann Dowd on What It's Like Not Finding Success Until Her 50s," 11 Nov. 2018 That followed a more violent confrontation on the border bridge over the river Sunday night, when migrants threw rocks and used sticks against Mexico police. Marko Alvarez, The Seattle Times, "Migrant caravan demands transport as 2nd group enters Mexico," 30 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'river.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of river

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for river

Middle English rivere, from Anglo-French, from Vulgar Latin *riparia, from Latin, feminine of riparius riparian, from ripa bank, shore; perhaps akin to Greek ereipein to tear down

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Dictionary Entries near river





river's mouth



Statistics for river

Last Updated

29 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for river

The first known use of river was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for river



English Language Learners Definition of river

: a large natural flow of water that crosses an area of land and goes into an ocean, a lake, etc.

: a large flow of something


riv·​er | \ˈri-vər \

Kids Definition of river

1 : a natural stream of water larger than a brook or creek

2 : a large stream or flow a river of mud

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More from Merriam-Webster on river

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with river

Spanish Central: Translation of river

Nglish: Translation of river for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of river for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about river

Comments on river

What made you want to look up river? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

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