noun, plural ar·roy·os.

(chiefly in southwest U.S.) a small steep-sided watercourse or gulch with a nearly flat floor: usually dry except after heavy rains.

Origin of arroyo

1800–10, Americanism; < Spanish; akin to Latin arrūgia mine shaft Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for arroyo

gully, creek, stream, brook, gorge, ravine, channel

Examples from the Web for arroyo

Historical Examples of arroyo

  • He was beside her again before she had reached the bed of the arroyo.

    Bloom of Cactus

    Robert Ames Bennet

  • Slade sent one of his men springing up the side of the arroyo.

    Bloom of Cactus

    Robert Ames Bennet

  • Quickly he swung his horse to the left and vanished into an arroyo.

    Oh, You Tex!

    William Macleod Raine

  • They left the road and struck across country toward the arroyo.

    Across the Mesa

    Jarvis Hall

  • The three riders had plunged into the depths of the arroyo and were out on the other 299 side.

    Across the Mesa

    Jarvis Hall

British Dictionary definitions for arroyo


noun plural -os mainly Southwestern US

a steep-sided stream bed that is usually dry except after heavy rain

Word Origin for arroyo

C19: from Spanish



Gloria Macapagal. born 1947, Filipino stateswoman; vice-president of the Philippines (1998–2001); president (2001–10)
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

Word Origin and History for arroyo

"watercourse, dry streambed," 1845, a California word, from American Spanish, in Spanish, "rivulet, small stream," from Latin arrugia "shaft or pit in a gold mine," apparently a compound of ad- "to" (see ad-) + ruga "a wrinkle" (see rough (adj.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

arroyo in Science



A small, deep gully or channel of an ephemeral stream. Arroyos usually have relatively flat floors and are flanked by steep sides consisting of unconsolidated sediments. They are usually dry except after heavy rainfall.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.