About 100 km from its source, the Tigris enables rich agriculture outside Diyarbakır, Turkey.
Countries Turkey, Syria, Iraq
Basin area Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran
 - left Batman, Khabur, Greater Zab, Lesser Zab, 'Adhaim, Diyala, Cizre
 - right Wadi Tharthar
Cities Diyarbakır, Mosul, Baghdad
Source Lake Hazar
 - elevation 1,150 m (3,773 ft)
 - coordinates 38°29′0″N 39°25′0″E / 38.483333°N 39.416667°E / 38.483333; 39.416667
Mouth Shatt al-Arab
 - location Al-Qurnah, Basra Governorate, Iraq
Length 1,850 km (1,150 mi)
Basin 375,000 km2 (144,788 sq mi)
Discharge for Baghdad
 - average 1,014 m3/s (35,809 cu ft/s)
 - max 2,779 m3/s (98,139 cu ft/s)
 - min 337 m3/s (11,901 cu ft/s)
Map of the Tigris-Euphrates basin area

The Tigris River (English pronunciation: /ˈtaɪɡrɪs/) is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.



The Tigris is about 1,850 km long, rising in the Taurus Mountains of eastern Turkey about 25 km southeast of the city of Elazig and circa 30 km from the headwaters of the Euphrates River. The river then flows for 400 km through Turkish territory, before becoming the border between Syria and Iraq. This stretch of 44 km is the only part of the river that is located in Syria. The remaining 1,418 km are entirely within the Iraqi borders.[1]

The Tigris unites with the Euphrates near Basra, and from this junction to the Persian Gulf the mass of moving water is known as the Shatt-al-Arab. According to Pliny and other ancient historians, the Euphrates originally had its outlet into the sea separate from that of the Tigris.[3]

Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, stands on the banks of the Tigris. The port city of Basra straddles the Shatt al-Arab. In ancient times, many of the great cities of Mesopotamia stood on or near the Tigris, drawing water from it to irrigate the civilization of the Sumerians. Notable Tigris-side cities included Nineveh, Ctesiphon, and Seleucia, while the city of Lagash was irrigated by the Tigris via a canal dug around 2400 BC. Saddam Hussein's hometown, Tikrit, is also located on the river and derives its name from it.


The Tigris has long been an important transport route in a largely desert country. It can go as far as Baghdad by shallow-draft vessels, but rafts are needed for transport upstream to Mosul.

General Francis Rawdon Chesney hauled two steamers overland through Syria in 1836, to explore the possibility of an overland and river route to India. One steamer, the Tigris, was wrecked in a storm which sank and killed twenty adventurers. Chesney proved the river navigable to powered craft. The river was prone to flooding, drying, and silting.

Later, the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company was established in 1861 by the Lynch Brothers trading company. They had 2 steamers in service. By 1908 ten steamers were on the river. Tourists boarded steam yachts to venture inland as this was the first age of Archaelological Tourism and the sites of Ur and Ctesiphon became popular to European travellers.

In the First World War during the British conquest of Ottoman Mesopotamia, Indian and Thames River paddlers were used to supply General Townsend's Army. See Siege of Kut, and the Fall of Baghdad (1917).[4] The Tigris Flotilla included vessels Clio, Espiegle, Lawrence, Odin, armed tug Comet, armed launches Lewis Pelly, Miner, Shaitan, Sumana, and stern wheelers Muzaffari/Mozaffir. These were joined by Royal Navy Fly-class Butterfly, Cranefly, Dragonfly, Mayfly, Sawfly, Snakefly and Mantis, Moth, and Tarantula.

After the war river trade declined in importance during the 20th century as the Basra-Baghdad-Mosul railway, an unfinished portion of the Baghdad Railway was completed and roads took over much of the freight traffic.


The original Sumerian name was Idigna or Idigina, probably from *id (i)gina "running water",[5] which can be interpreted as "the swift river", contrasted to its neighbor, the Euphrates, whose leisurely pace caused it to deposit more silt and build up a higher bed than the Tigris. This form was borrowed and gave rise to Akkadian Idiqlat. From Old Persian Tigrā, the word was adopted into Greek as Tigris ("Τίγρις" which is also Greek for "tiger").

Pahlavi tigr means "arrow", in the same family as Old Persian tigra- "pointed" (compare tigra-xauda), Modern Persian têz, tiz "sharp". However, it does not appear that this was the original name of the river, but that it (like the Semitic forms of the name) was coined as an imitation of the indigenous Sumerian name. This is similar to the Persian name of the Euphrates, Ufratu, after the Akkadian name Purattu. 

Another name for the Tigris, used from the time of the Persian Empire, is Arvand Rud, literally Arvand River. Today the name Arvand Rud is the Persian name for the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers which in Arabic is called Shatt al-Arab.

The name of the Tigris in languages that have been important to the region:

Tigris River Outside of Mosul, Iraq
Language Name for Tigris
Akkadian Idiqlat
Arabic دجلة, Dijla; حدٌاقل, Ḥudaqil
Aramaic ܕܝܓܠܐܬ, Diglath
Armenian Տիգրիս, Tigris
Greek ἡ Τίγρης, -ητος, hē Tígrēs, -ētos;

ἡ, ὁ Τίγρις, -ιδος, hē, ho Tígris, -idos

Hebrew חידקל , Ḥîddeqel Biblical
Hurrian Aranzah[6]
Kurdish Dîcle
Persian Old Persian:Tigrā; Middle Persian:Tigr; Modern Persian:دجله Dijle
Sumerian Idigna/Idigina Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tigris — Karte der Flüsse Euphrat und Tigris DatenVorlage:Infobox Fluss/GKZ fehlt Lage …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • TIGRIS — (Heb. חִדֶּקֶל; from Old Persian, Tigra; Sumerian Idigna; Akk. Idiglat; Aramaic Diglat; Ar. Dijla), a major river of S.W. Asia (c. 1,150 mi. (1,850 km.) long). The Tigris is mentioned twice in the Bible, once in Genesis 2:14, as one of the four… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Tigris [1] — Tigris, Säugethier, s. Tiger …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Tigris [2] — Tigris, 1) (in der Bibel Hhiddekel), einer der größten Ströme Vorderasiens, entsprang nach der gewöhnlichen Ansicht auf dem Gebirg Niphates in Armenien; eigentlich hatte er mehre Quellen; die beiden westlichern Hauptquellen lagen in Sophene, u.… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Tigris [1] — Tigris, der Tiger …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Tigris [2] — Tigris (v. altpers. tigra, »Pfeil«, assyr. Chiddekel, armen. Deklath, arab. Didschle oder e Schatt), einer der Hauptströme von Vorderasien, nächst dem Euphrat, mit dem er das altberühmte Kulturland Mesopotamien umschließt, der größte Strom in der …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Tigris — Tigris, Strom in Vorderasien, entspringt westl. vom Wansee nahe dem Euphrat; fließt in südöstl. Richtung, scheidet Assyrien von Mesopotamien und vereinigt sich nach 1870 km mit dem Euphrat zum Schatt el Arab; von Diarbekr ab schiffbar. [Tafel:… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Tigris — Tigris. Wenn es wahr ist, wie die Dichter sagen, daß schon vor der Geburt die heilige Sympathie walte und zwei Herzen der T. oder Schat el Bagdad sich nordwestlich von der Stadt Diabekr so stürmisch seinen Eltern, den wilden Gebirgspässen,… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Tigris — d.h. Pfeil, Strom in Vorderasien, entspringt 2000 Schritte von den Euphratquellen im armenischen Gebirge, erreicht nach einem Laufe von 18 St. die Ebene von Diarbekr, durchbricht nach 40 St. das kurdische Gebirge in kaum mit Flößen fahrbaren… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Tigris — TIGRIS, is, od. idis, (⇒ Tab. IV.) des Pontus und der See oder Thalassa Sohn, Hygin. Præf. p. 6. ein bekannter Fluß in Asien …   Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

  • Tigris [1] — TIGRIS, ĭdis, einer von Aktäons Hunden. Hygin. Fab. 181. & Ovid. Metam. III. v. 217 …   Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

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