- a natural stream of water of fairly large size flowing in a definite course or channel or series of diverging and converging channels.
- a similar stream of something other than water: a river of lava; a river of ice.
- any abundant stream or copious flow; outpouring: rivers of tears; rivers of words.
- (initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Eridanus.
- Printing. a vertical channel of white space resulting from the alignment in several lines of spaces between words.
- sell down the river, to betray; desert; mislead: to sell one’s friends down the river.
- up the river, Slang.
- to prison: to be sent up the river for a bank robbery.
- in prison: Thirty years up the river had made him a stranger to society.
- a large natural stream of fresh water flowing along a definite course, usually into the sea, being fed by tributary streams
- (as modifier)river traffic; a river basin
- (in combination)riverside; riverbed Related adjectives: fluvial, potamic
- any abundant stream or flowa river of blood
- sell down the river informal to deceive or betray
- the river poker slang the fifth and final community card to be dealt in a round of Texas hold ’em
n.early 13c., from Anglo-French rivere, Old French riviere “river, riverside, river bank” (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *riparia “riverbank, seashore, river” (cf. Spanish ribera, Italian riviera), noun use of fem. of Latin riparius “of a riverbank” (see riparian). Generalized sense of “a copious flow” of anything is from late 14c. The Old English word was ea “river,” cognate with Gothic ahwa, Latin aqua (see aqua-). Romanic cognate words tend to retain the sense “river bank” as the main one, or else the secondary Latin sense “coast of the sea” (cf. Riviera). U.S. slang phrase up the river “in prison” (1891) is originally in reference to Sing Sing prison, which was literally “up the (Hudson) river” from New York City. Phrase down the river “done for, finished” perhaps echoes sense in sell down the river (1851), originally of troublesome slaves, to sell from the Upper South to the harsher cotton plantations of the Deep South.
- A wide, natural stream of fresh water that flows into an ocean or other large body of water and is usually fed by smaller streams, called tributaries, that enter it along its course. A river and its tributaries form a drainage basin, or watershed, that collects the runoff throughout the region and channels it along with erosional sediments toward the river. The sediments are typically deposited most heavily along the river’s lower course, forming floodplains along its banks and a delta at its mouth.
Betray, as in They kept the merger a secret until the last minute, so the employees who were laid off felt they’d been sold down the river. This expression, dating from the mid-1800s, alludes to slaves being sold down the Mississippi River to work as laborers on cotton plantations. Its figurative use dates from the late 1800s. see sell down the river; up the river.