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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.
(1.) Heb. 'aphik, properly the channel or ravine that holds water (2 Sam. 22:16), translated "brook," "river," "stream," but not necessarily a perennial stream (Ezek. 6:3; 31:12; 32:6; 34:13). (2.) Heb. nahal, in winter a "torrent," in summer a "wady" or valley (Gen. 32:23; Deut. 2:24; 3:16; Isa. 30:28; Lam. 2:18; Ezek. 47:9). These winter torrents sometimes come down with great suddenness and with desolating force. A distinguished traveller thus describes his experience in this matter:, "I was encamped in Wady Feiran, near the base of Jebel Serbal, when a tremendous thunderstorm burst upon us. After little more than an hour's rain, the water rose so rapidly in the previously dry wady that I had to run for my life, and with great difficulty succeeded in saving my tent and goods; my boots, which I had not time to pick up, were washed away. In less than two hours a dry desert wady upwards of 300 yards broad was turned into a foaming torrent from 8 to 10 feet deep, roaring and tearing down and bearing everything upon it, tangled masses of tamarisks, hundreds of beautiful palmtrees, scores of sheep and goats, camels and donkeys, and even men, women, and children, for a whole encampment of Arabs was washed away a few miles above me. The storm commenced at five in the evening; at half-past nine the waters were rapidly subsiding, and it was evident that the flood had spent its force." (Comp. Matt. 7:27; Luke 6:49.) (3.) Nahar, a "river" continuous and full, a perennial stream, as the Jordan, the Euphrates (Gen. 2:10; 15:18; Deut. 1:7; Ps. 66:6; Ezek. 10:15). (4.) Tel'alah, a conduit, or water-course (1 Kings 18:32; 2 Kings 18:17; 20:20; Job 38:25; Ezek. 31:4). (5.) Peleg, properly "waters divided", i.e., streams divided, throughout the land (Ps. 1:3); "the rivers [i.e., 'divisions'] of waters" (Job 20:17; 29:6; Prov. 5:16). (6.) Ye'or, i.e., "great river", probably from an Egyptian word (Aur), commonly applied to the Nile (Gen. 41:1-3), but also to other rivers (Job 28:10; Isa. 33:21). (7.) Yubhal, "a river" (Jer. 17:8), a full flowing stream. (8.) 'Ubhal, "a river" (Dan. 8:2).