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

On those 100-degree days, nothing beats a waist-high wade into the river. Jordan Rodriguez, idahostatesman, "How to beat the heat on your fishing trips in Idaho’s summer sun," 12 July 2018 Emmett was kidnapped and killed days later, his body tethered to a cotton gin fan with barbed wire and then cast into a river. The case — gruesome and shocking — became a catalyst for the broader civil rights movement. Alan Blinder, New York Times, "U.S. Reopens Emmett Till Investigation, Almost 63 Years After His Murder," 12 July 2018 Perez wasn't the only person to develop startling symptoms after going into the river. Josh Magness, miamiherald, "Flesh-eating bacteria may cost a man all his limbs. He got it while crabbing, family says," 10 July 2018 One of the people on board fell into the river and was pulled out of the water by a good Samaritan. Nicole Darrah, Fox News, "Small boat overturns in Hudson River outside New York City; 2 people rescued," 10 July 2018 To black out and not remember driving your car into the river...? Steve Annear, BostonGlobe.com, "Chicopee police pull Mercedes from river — 3 months after driver ‘blacked out,’ forgot where he left it," 9 July 2018 But this year, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources loosened the park's permit under the Clean Water Act, allowing it to send more pollutants into the river. Kelsey Ryan, kansascity, "Worlds of Fun was sued for polluting. Then Missouri loosened its pollutant limits," 6 July 2018 Two college students from Saudi Arabia drowned in Massachusetts after rushing into a river to rescue children, officials said. Jason Silverstein, CBS News, "Two college students from Saudi Arabia drown while trying to rescue children," 5 July 2018 The body of a Valdosta State University student was recovered from the Mississippi River Sunday, days after friends saw the man fall into the river after a concert. Chelsea Prince, ajc, "Body of Valdosta State student pulled from Mississippi River," 3 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

18 Oct 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 state of commotion or excitement

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