Biała Lądecka, a right tributary of Nysa Kłodzka in Poland, located in the village of Bielice in Lower Silesia.

A tributary or affluent[1] is a stream or river that flows into a main stem (or parent) river or a lake.[2] A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the mainstem river serve to drain the surrounding drainage basin of its surface water and groundwater by leading the water out into an ocean or sea.

A confluence, where two or more bodies of water meet together, usually refers to the joining of tributaries.

Reciprocal to a tributary is a distributary, a river that branches off of and flows away from the main stream. Distributaries are most often found in river deltas.



The Pfinz, a right tributary of the Rhine, located in Baden-Württemberg.
Walton Creek, a small tributary of the Lochsa River in northeastern Idaho, flowing slightly upstream of its confluence with a larger stream.

'Right tributary' and 'left tributary' (or 'right-bank tributary' and 'left-bank tributary') are terms stating the position of the tributary relative to the flow of the mainstem river. These terms are defined from the perspective of looking downstream (in the direction the water current is going).

Ordering and enumeration

In geography, tributaries are sometimes ordered from those nearest to the source of the river to those nearest to the mouth of the river. For example, the Strahler Stream Order examines the arrangement of tributaries in a hierarchy of first, second, third, and higher orders, with the first order tributary being typically the least in size. For example, a second order tributary would be composed of two or more first order tributaries combining to form the second order tributary.

Another method is to organize tributaries from mouth to source, in the form of a tree structure, stored as a tree data structure.[citation needed]

In Norway, the river Glomma meets its main tributary Vorma.

See also


  1. ^ "affluent". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. Viewed 30 Sep. 2008.
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tributary — Trib u*ta*ry, a. [OE. tributaire, F. tributaire, L. tributarius. See {Tribute}.] 1. Paying tribute to another, either from compulsion, as an acknowledgment of submission, or to secure protection, or for the purpose of purchasing peace. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tributary — [trib′yo͞o ter΄ē, trib′yəter΄ē] adj. [ME tributarie < L tributarius] 1. paying tribute 2. under another s control; subject [a tributary nation] 3. in the nature of tribute; owed or paid as tribute 4. a) making additions or furnishing supplies; …   English World dictionary

  • Tributary — Trib u*ta*ry, n.; pl. {Tributaries}. 1. A ruler or state that pays tribute, or a stated sum, to a conquering power, for the purpose of securing peace and protection, or as an acknowledgment of submission, or for the purchase of security. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tributary — index contributory, inferior (lower in position) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • tributary — (adj.) late 14c., paying tribute, from L. tributarius liable to tax or tribute, from tributum (see TRIBUTE (Cf. tribute)). The noun sense of one who pays tribute is recorded from early 15c. Meaning stream that flows into a larger body is from… …   Etymology dictionary

  • tributary — adj *subordinate, secondary, dependent, subject, collateral Analogous words: conquered, vanquished, subjugated, subdued (see CONQUER): *auxiliary, subsidiary, ancillary, adjuvant, contributory …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • tributary — [adj] secondary; branch accessory, dependent, feeding, minor, satellite, shoot, side, sub, subject, subordinate, under; concept 560 Ant. original, primary, source …   New thesaurus

  • tributary — ► NOUN (pl. tributaries) 1) a river or stream flowing into a larger river or lake. 2) historical a person or state that pays tribute to another state or ruler. ORIGIN Latin tributarius, from tributum (see TRIBUTE(Cf. ↑tribute)) …   English terms dictionary

  • tributary — [[t]trɪ̱bjʊtəri, AM teri[/t]] tributaries N COUNT: oft N n A tributary is a stream or river that flows into a larger one. ...the Napo river, a tributary of the Amazon. ...a small tributary river …   English dictionary

  • tributary — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ main, major TRIBUTARY + VERB ▪ drain sth, drain into sth, feed sth, flow into sth ▪ The river is fed by several small tributaries …   Collocations dictionary

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