tributary

1 of 2

noun

trib·​u·​tary ˈtri-byə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce tributary (audio)
plural tributaries
1
: a stream feeding a larger stream or a lake
2
: a ruler or state that pays tribute to a conqueror

tributary

2 of 2

adjective

1
: paying tribute to another to acknowledge submission, to obtain protection, or to purchase peace : subject
2
: paid or owed as tribute
tributary gifts
3
: channeling material or supplies into something more inclusive : contributory

Did you know?

A tributary was originally a person or state that owed tribute to a more powerful person or state. Ancient China, for instance, had dozens of tributary states, and the emperor would receive elephants from Siam or young girls from Korea as tribute. Just as a smaller power gave some of its wealth to a larger power, a small river contributes its waters to a larger one. A tributary can be a tiny stream, but some are immense rivers. The Missouri River, for example, could be called a tributary to the Mississippi, even though it's about 2,500 miles long and receives hundreds of tributaries itself.

Examples of tributary in a Sentence

Noun one of the river's tributaries This stream is a tributary of the Ohio River.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
In Brazilian maps, this marks the beginning of the Amazon, with Negro as the second main tributary. Fabiano Maisonnave, The Christian Science Monitor, 18 Oct. 2023 One source of water are the tributaries of the West Branch of the Patapsco River. Kevin Dayhoff, Baltimore Sun, 9 Sep. 2023 Over the course of one week in 2015, state and federal agencies killed 450 brook trout using a broad application of rotenone throughout 38 miles of the Lamar River tributary. Travis Hall, Field & Stream, 24 Aug. 2023 The tributaries from Iran are the only source of water in the province, other than the dwindling rainfall. Alissa J. Rubin, BostonGlobe.com, 30 July 2023 Note: Chart shows inflow to the Tigris River and its major tributaries, including the Great Zab, Little Zab and Diyala rivers. Alissa J. Rubin Bryan Denton, New York Times, 29 July 2023 The Negro River, the Amazon’s second largest tributary, on Oct. 16 reached its lowest level since official measurements began near Manaus, Brazil 121 years ago. Fabiano Maisonnave, The Christian Science Monitor, 18 Oct. 2023 Several other records were set this weekend along the Mississippi and its major tributary, the Ohio River: Cairo, Illinois, was at a level of 4.5 feet, while New Madrid and Caruthersville in Missouri reached minus 6.4 feet and minus 2.6 feet, respectively. Ritu Prasad, CNN, 11 Oct. 2023 The Yurok Fisheries Department and Yurok Construction Corp., along with the Trinity River Restoration Program and Hoopa Valley Tribe, are also implementing a large-scale restoration project on the Trinity River, the Klamath’s largest tributary, officials said. Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times, 30 July 2023
Adjective
That salty, terminal lake had its tributary water diverted away by the city of Los Angeles, turning it into a dry salt flat. Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 19 Sep. 2023 Sometimes the killers may be Chechens maybe organized by Putin’s other feral favourite, his tributary ruler of Russia’s Chechen republic, Kadyrov. Time, 24 Aug. 2023 Lilac Solutions expects the amount of lithium it mines will get replenished from the sediments washed in by the Great Salt Lake’s tributary rivers each year, Sully said. Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 7 Sep. 2023 The edges of the country roads are decorated by tributary statues and banners flashing the faces of Allied soldiers who died in the fight. Catherine Porter, New York Times, 6 June 2023 This was a tributary version of the break-up and floe of ice that historically has happened in all the Great Lakes. Andrew McKean, Outdoor Life, 27 Mar. 2023 Your porcelain vase is Chinese, the decoration is hand painted, and the marks underneath are those used during the Qianlong period of the Qing dynasty, but are tributary. oregonlive, 5 Apr. 2023 This year, only about 1.2-million acre-feet reached the lake through its tributary rivers. Sofia Jeremias, The Salt Lake Tribune, 30 Dec. 2022 Vietnam was a tributary state of China for 1,000 years and was invaded by China in 1979, and the two countries continue to joust for sovereignty in the South China Sea [The New York Times]. Smriti Rao, Discover Magazine, 31 Mar. 2010 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tributary was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near tributary

Cite this Entry

“Tributary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tributary. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

tributary

1 of 2 adjective
trib·​u·​tary ˈtrib-yə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce tributary (audio)
1
: paying tribute to another : subject
2
: paid or owed as tribute
3
: contributing or adding to something larger or more important
especially : flowing into a larger stream or lake

tributary

2 of 2 noun
plural tributaries
1
: a ruler or state that pays tribute to a conqueror
2
: a stream flowing into a larger stream or a lake

Medical Definition

tributary

noun
trib·​u·​tary ˈtrib-yə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce tributary (audio)
plural tributaries
: a vein that empties into a larger vein

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