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[riv-er] /ˈrɪv ər/
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.
  1. to prison:
    to be sent up the river for a bank robbery.
  2. in prison:
    Thirty years up the river had made him a stranger to society.
Origin of river1
1250-1300; Middle English < Old French rivere, riviere < Vulgar Latin *rīpāria, noun use of feminine of Latin rīpārius riparian
Related forms
riverless, adjective
riverlike, adjective
Can be confused
brook, creek, river, stream. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for up-river
Historical Examples
  • He was interrupted in his bitterness by a shout from up-river.

    Murder Point

    Coningsby Dawson
  • The up-river people flocked in at certain seasons by the hundred.

  • I proceeded at once to talk with Colonel Shepard about the up-river trip.

    Down South Oliver Optic
  • They had taken the up-river road, towards the hacienda de Vargas.

    The War Trail Mayne Reid
  • Now their bows were no longer pointing out of the cove, but up-river.

    Jack Harvey's Adventures Ruel Perley Smith
  • Then along comes Stanley, from an up-river journey, on a tour of inspection.

    Stanley in Africa James P. Boyd
  • But they do say he had a Chink wife and practically lived like a Chink up-river.

    Command William McFee
  • If any of the men from up-river try to go out on the dam, you warn them off.

    The Blazed Trail Stewart Edward White
  • Had I been in funds, I should have preferred a horse for the up-river trip.

    A Volunteer with Pike Robert Ames Bennet
  • There was an unmistakable thumping at the up-river end of the building.

    Ruth Fielding Down in Dixie Alice B. Emerson
British Dictionary definitions for up-river


  1. a large natural stream of fresh water flowing along a definite course, usually into the sea, being fed by tributary streams
  2. (as modifier): river traffic, a river basin
  3. (in combination): riverside, riverbed, related adjectives fluvial potamic
any abundant stream or flow: a river of blood
(informal) sell down the river, to deceive or betray
(poker, slang) the river, the fifth and final community card to be dealt in a round of Texas hold 'em
Derived Forms
riverless, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French riviere, from Latin rīpārius of a river bank, from rīpa bank
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for up-river

1774, from up + river.



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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up-river in Science
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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for up-river
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with up-river
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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