noun, plural trib·u·tar·ies.

a stream that flows to a larger stream or other body of water.
a person or nation that pays tribute in acknowledgment of subjugation or the like.


Origin of tributary

1325–75; Middle English (adj. and noun) < Latin tribūtārius of tribute, one who pays tribute. See tribute, -ary
Related formstrib·u·tar·i·ly, adverbnon·trib·u·tar·y, adjectiveun·trib·u·tar·i·ly, adverbun·trib·u·tar·y, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for tributary


noun plural -taries

a stream, river, or glacier that feeds another larger one
a person, nation, or people that pays tribute


(of a stream, etc) feeding a larger stream
given or owed as a tribute
paying tribute
Derived Formstributarily, adverb
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 tributary

late 14c., "paying tribute," from Latin tributarius "liable to tax or tribute," from tributum (see tribute). The noun sense of "one who pays tribute" is recorded from early 15c. Meaning "stream that flows into a larger body" is from 1822, from the adjective, which is recorded from 1610s in this sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tributary in Science



A stream that flows into a river, a larger stream, or a lake.
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