tributary

noun
trib·u·tary | \ˈtri-byə-ˌter-ē \
plural tributaries

Definition of tributary 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a stream feeding a larger stream or a lake

2 : a ruler or state that pays tribute to a conqueror

tributary

adjective

Definition of tributary (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for tributary

Synonyms: Noun

affluent, bayou, branch, feeder

Antonyms: Noun

distributary, effluent

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Coastal fall tributary seasons: Will be announced later this spring; however, there will be no wild coho fishing in north coast tributaries this year. Bill Monroe, OregonLive.com, "Salmon seasons set for Oregon Coast, Columbia River," 13 Apr. 2018 Aside from a few short tributaries hiding one of thousands of collectible trinkets, there's only one way to go at many points. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "God of War (2018): How to reinvent a beloved series without ruining what works," 12 Apr. 2018 On the Columbia River and its tributaries, 13 varieties of salmon and steelhead are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Ryan Sabalow, sacbee, "To protect salmon in the Columbia, will we have to kill more sea lions?," 6 July 2018 The bill has broad support from Democrats and Republicans in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, states through which the Columbia River and its major tributaries flow. Ryan Sabalow, sacbee, "To protect salmon in the Columbia, will we have to kill more sea lions?," 6 July 2018 This waterway, one of the main tributaries that flows into Grand Canyon, is remarkable for its bright-blue color and white limestone rocks. The Editors, Outside Online, "Our Editors' Favorite Trips," 1 July 2018 The property, which includes Haupt Creek, a fish-bearing stream and tributary of the Gualala River, was the largest remaining unprotected old-growth redwood forest still in private ownership. Peter Fimrite, SFChronicle.com, "Family’s legendary grove of old-growth redwoods preserved," 26 June 2018 The inspections are part of an effort by the Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor hundreds of Great Lakes tributaries every spring and summer. Detroit Free Press Staff, Detroit Free Press, "Scientists on the hunt for blood-sucking sea lampreys in metro Detroit," 22 May 2018 Tributary restoration Interested in knowing more about natural stream design principles or a restoration project to correct an unstable portion of a tributary to O’Bannon Creek? Sheila Vilvens, Cincinnati.com, "More than coffee found at Milford's The Main Cup," 2 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Each tributary canyon is unique, with dramatic shapes, and vivid colors. Jill K. Robinson, San Francisco Chronicle, "Top 10 California parks: Little known wonders," 9 May 2018 Coastal fall tributary seasons: Will be announced later this spring; however, there will be no wild coho fishing in north coast tributaries this year. Bill Monroe, OregonLive.com, "Salmon seasons set for Oregon Coast, Columbia River," 13 Apr. 2018 The owners of this 10,000-acre property purchased it on an impulse, then built a house situated on the rimrock of a tributary canyon. Wsj Real Estate, WSJ, "Going Up? Incline Elevators Help Hillside Homeowners," 10 Aug. 2017 At Lewis Smith, best bet is to look for striped bass making spawning runs up the tributary rivers--the fish migrate from early March to early April before returning to the depths of the lake for the rest of the year. Frank Sargeant, AL.com, "Friday Fishing Report," 15 Mar. 2018 Testing of the tributary waters that feed the lake has been scaled back; a public water quality board folded; a real-time chemical spill monitoring system in the St. Clair River shuttered through neglect and disinterest. Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, "Lake St. Clair: Beach closures, 'nasty stuff' in the water, a problem that doesn't get fixed," 29 Sep. 2017 But in China’s case, that pushback comes not just from the West but also from neighbors who remember the tributary system of its imperial past — or are wary of its Communist political system despite its embrace of capitalism decades ago. Jane Perlez, New York Times, "Xi Jinping Pushes China’s Global Rise Despite Friction and Fear," 22 Oct. 2017 At Lewis Smith, stripers continue the gradual move away from the dam and up into the tributary arms, particularly Rock Creek, Brushy Creek and the Sipsey River areas. Frank Sargeant, AL.com, "Friday Fishing Report," 20 Oct. 2017 Testing of the tributary waters that feed the lake has been scaled back Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, "Lake St. Clair: Beach closures, 'nasty stuff' in the water, a problem that doesn't get fixed," 29 Sep. 2017

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

See More

First Known Use of tributary

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tributary

Statistics for tributary

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tributary

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for tributary

tributary

noun

English Language Learners Definition of tributary

: a stream that flows into a larger stream or river or into a lake

tributary

noun
trib·u·tary | \ˈtri-byə-ˌter-ē \
plural tributaries

Kids Definition of tributary

: a stream flowing into a larger stream or a lake The river has several tributaries.

tributary

noun
trib·u·tary | \ˈtrib-yə-ˌter-ē \
plural tributaries

Medical Definition of tributary 

: a vein that empties into a larger vein

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on tributary

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

WORD OF THE DAY

lying above or upon

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!