Definition of river in US English:



  • 1A large natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea, a lake, or another such stream.

    • ‘The nature was beautiful, mountains, rivers, lakes and blooming Sakura trees.’
    • ‘Some farmers rely on alternative water sources, such as wells, other streams or rivers.’
    • ‘Major environmental problems faced by China are pollution in rivers, lakes and seas, as well as urban air pollution and acid rain, the report said.’
    • ‘Above me, the sky was grey and overcast, the rain pelting down upon the rocky mountainside in steady sheets, running down to feed the rivers and lakes.’
    • ‘The rye plants capture and hold nutrients and moisture in place, reducing the amount that reaches rivers, streams and ground water.’
    • ‘Inland wetlands are common on floodplains along rivers and streams and in other low-lying areas.’
    • ‘The draining of water from rivers and watersheds for irrigation leads to drier natural habitats.’
    • ‘Record temperatures dried up wells, rivers and streams and resulted in water crises in 11 of India's 31 states.’
    • ‘The network of canals, rivers and lakes in Holland is thousands of miles long, and since all the Dutch waterways are connected, it makes for the perfect boating holiday.’
    • ‘The hot springs and underground river that enter the lake results in the water on the shore being boiling hot.’
    • ‘Glaciers and snowfields are essential stores of water - which keep rivers running and fields irrigated through the long, dry summer.’
    • ‘Global warming could devastate lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands throughout the United States.’
    • ‘Water can be obtained from streams, rivers, lakes, or underground aquifers, which are used to supply private wells and public drinking water.’
    • ‘Extraction of gravel in streams and rivers results in sediment-related pollution and a disturbance of natural hydraulic patterns.’
    • ‘In river valleys, water that seeps from canals and fields provides groundwater that can be pumped for various purposes or the water may return to rivers through streams or creeks.’
    • ‘The river itself hummed with natural energy, crystal clear water darkening to a thick indigo to show its depth.’
    • ‘The small streams became raging rivers, which flowed flawlessly into many lakes.’
    • ‘Water is obtained from lakes, rivers, and wells and must be carried over great distances.’
    • ‘The site is close to a tributary of the Slaney river from which water supplies for Carlow and Wexford are drawn.’
    • ‘With hundreds of lakes and rivers, you could sail and water ski the day away without even coming close to the coast.’
    watercourse, waterway, stream, tributary, brook, inlet, rivulet, rill, runnel, streamlet, freshet
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    1. 1.1 A large quantity of a flowing substance.
      ‘great rivers of molten lava’
      figurative ‘the trickle of disclosures has grown into a river of revelations’
      • ‘I proceeded along the jagged ridges staring down into a river of a boiling red substance.’
      • ‘The film has an austere and bittersweet beauty, but this could easily be interpreted as excessive, like drowning in rivers of despair.’
      • ‘There are rivers of lava as well, and huge avalanches.’
      • ‘‘Hey Mom,’ I said softly, with rivers of tears falling down my face.’
      • ‘Her tears, which flowed freely, mingled with her dark mascara and were just starting to make little rivers of black down her face.’
      • ‘There I am running rivers of sweat down my neck, down my chest, down my belly and through my shirt, and I'm dancing harder than I've ever danced to a rock band.’
      • ‘Beads of sweat poured down King Louis' brow, indistinguishable from the rivers of rainwater that dripped earthward from his face.’
      • ‘Red rivers of molten lava were scorching through Los Angeles neighborhoods.’
      • ‘The young man was sweating profusely; rivers of it were flowing down his pale face.’
      • ‘The unlikely trio followed cooled lava flows, or places where the searing rivers of fire had yet to flow, their path taking them on a zigzag course up the blackened and charred slope of the mountain.’
      • ‘As evening fell and the cityscape was flooded with white rivers of light, illuminated ice particles on the streets and facades were transformed into dancing flecks of diamond white.’
      • ‘He did not seem too concerned with the tiny rivers of blood that were snaking down his body, and settled down against the hard rock wall.’
      • ‘To the casual visitor, there seems little tangible evidence of uplift, despite the rivers of money sluicing round the casino tables.’
      • ‘I pulled the sticky cotton T-shirt from my chest and began to pulse it in and out, like a heartbeat, trying to fan away the rivers of sweat pouring down my chest.’
      • ‘He writes as if he had rivers of knowledge gushing out of his head under their own momentum.’
      • ‘Human instinct kicked in, powered her legs as they ran, and pumped fresh rivers of adrenaline into her veins.’
      • ‘Tiny rivers of blood trickled aimlessly down his hand.’
      • ‘She whimpered, rivers of tears falling down her face.’
      • ‘Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters.’
      • ‘Everywhere he turned, there were screams of anguish and rivers of blood.’
      stream, torrent, flood, deluge, cascade
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    2. 1.2as modifier Used in names of animals and plants living in or associated with rivers, e.g., river dolphin, river birch.


  • sell someone down the river

    • informal Betray someone, especially so as to benefit oneself.

      • ‘Will he remove our freedoms and sell us down the river with a smile?’
      • ‘He has sold us down the river and made our democracy a joke.’
      • ‘Yet he behaves and talks constantly as if the world is out to get him, as if he has been sold down the river by some series of massive injustices that have conspired to deny him the fullness of his life.’
      • ‘Our leaders have sold us down the river on numerous occasions.’
      • ‘Soldiers and veterans groups could complain that troops are being made into scapegoats, and that the Pentagon and CIA have sold them down the river.’
      • ‘They could stop these plans now but instead they are selling us down the river for a few pence a tonne.’
      • ‘And they say they feel they have been sold down the river by their union leaders, who last week accepted a pay settlement involving changes in shift patterns and working practices.’
      • ‘Traders accused the planning committee of ‘selling them down the river’ after controversial plans to redevelop the Market Hall were approved.’
      • ‘I guess just by sheer odds alone, he was bound to do something right, and the Right Honourable Prime Minister saw the light about doing the right thing and not selling us down the river.’
      • ‘Staff feel they have been sold down the river by the Government.’
      cheat, trick, swindle, defraud, dupe, hoodwink
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  • up the river

    • informal To or in prison.

      • ‘Let me be on record as being strongly opposed to sending Limbaugh up the river, even though that is the penalty he wished to inflict on others.’
      • ‘The government wants you to know that violating its law can send you up the river.’
      • ‘Isn't having a code what generally got all the film noir protagonists sent up the river?’
      • ‘They're sent up the river for ‘life,’ having all the time in the world to spend together.’
      • ‘You're indicted, convicted and sent up the river.’


Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French, based on Latin riparius, from ripa ‘bank of a river’.