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

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 The river site offers a wealth of evidence for cultural exchange during the transition. Mark Barna, Discover Magazine, "When Farmers and Foragers First Met," 24 Oct. 2018 The four-bedroom house in Snedens Landing, Rockwell County (about an hour outside of Manhattan), sits on 0.79 acres overlooking the Hudson river. Sienna Fantozzi, House Beautiful, "Scarlett Johansson Just Bought A New House In New York, And It's Stunning," 12 Oct. 2018 To prepare herself for the mental challenge of pushing through severe physical discomfort, Davis has been regularly jumping into cold ice baths or chilly rivers midway through training sessions. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "How an Extreme Endurance Athlete Trains to Trek 704 Miles From Antarctica to the South Pole," 11 Oct. 2018 Life-threatening storm surge flooding, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are still expected. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Don’t Forget About the Victims of Hurricane Florence," 18 Sep. 2018 Mejia said he was apprehended by border agents near a river alongside the Texas-Mexico border. Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, "Immigrant dad separated from son in Michigan: 'A pain in my heart'," 14 July 2018 The two crossed the river near the South Texas city of McAllen and turned themselves in. New York Times, "‘It’s Like Each Day Is a Year’: A Migrant Mother’s Wait for a Reunion," 13 July 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

15 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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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).


a private place of worship

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