List of river name etymologies

List of river name etymologies

This page lists the various etymologies (origins) of the names of rivers around the world.


*Apies: from Afrikaans meaning "little apes"
*Berg: from Afrikaans meaning "mountain"
*Breede: from Afrikaans meaning "wide"
*Escravos: from Portuguese meaning "slaves"
*Forcados: from Portuguese meaning "forked"
*Komati: from siSwati meaning "cow"
*Mooi: from Afrikaans meaning "beautiful"
*Niger: from the Tuareg phrase "gher n gheren" meaning "river of rivers", shortened to "ngher".
*Nile: Greek Neilos (Νειλος), meaning "river valley" [Nile#Etymology of the word Nile]
*Nossob: from Khoikhoi meaning "black river"
*Ohlanga: from Zulu meaning "reed"
*Olifants: from Afrikaans meaning "elephants"
*Omi Osun: from Yoruba meaning "waters of the spirit-goddess Ọṣun"
*Palala: from Sotho meaning "one that inundates"
*Vaal: from Afrikaans meaning "dull"


*Alph River: name is from the opening passage in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, Kubla Khan [Alph River]
*Onyx River: so named because of the relationship of the 15th, 14th, 25th and 24th letters of the alphabet in Onyx [ [ Antarctic Explorers] ]


*Aravand-rud: Persian: "Fast river".
*Brahmaputra: Hindi: "Son of Brahma".
*Chang Jiang: Chinese "long river"
**Yangtze: "Ocean child"
*Dongjiang: Chinese "East river"
*Huang He: Chinese "Yellow river"
*Indus River: Sanskrit Sindhu generically means "river, stream, ocean" [Indus#History]
*Mekong: from Thai "Mae Khong" (แม่ โขง), "mother of all rivers"
*Sefid-rud: Persian: "White river"
*Wang Thong from Thai วังทอง, "Gold Palace"


*Murray River: Australia, named for Sir George Murray, then British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies [Murray River#Exploration]

*Waikato River: from Māori, meaning "flowing water"


:"See also Old European hydronymy."

*Avon: Brythonic meaning "river"
*Avonbeg: Irish meaning "small river"
*Avonmore: Irish meaning "big river"
*Awbeg: Irish meaning "small river"
*Cam: Brythonic meaning "crooked"
*Clanrye: Irish meaning "harbour of the king"
*Clwyd: Welsh meaning "hurdle"
*Danube: Latin "Danuvius", from Iranian (Scythian or Sarmatian) "dānu-" 'river', of Indo-European origin
** Argeş: from Greek or maybe Thracian "arges" = "bright"
** Bistriţa: Slavic "bistrica" = "fast flowing"
** Caraş: Turkish "kara" = "black", "dark"
** Drave: in Latin "Dravus", of Thracian or Illyrian origin, probably from PIE *dhreu = "to flow, to fall"
** Ialomiţa: Slavic "jalov" = "barren"
** Mureş;: Dacian "mur" = "murky"
** Prahova: Slavic "prah"="waterfall" or "prah"="dust"
** Siret: ancient Thracian "Seretos", probably from PIE *sreu = "to flow"
*Don (Aberdeenshire, Scotland): from Celtic "Devona" 'goddess'
*Emajõgi: Estonian meaning "mother river"
*Erne: Irish after the name of the mythical princess, "Éirne"
*Foyle: Irish meaning "estuary of the lip"
*Guadalquivir: from the Arabic "wadi al-kabir", or "great river"
*Hayle: from Cornish "Heyl" "estuary".
*Kymijoki: Old Finnish for "kymi", "huge river"
*Lagan: Irish meaning "river of the low-lying district"
*Llobregat: from Latin "Rubricatus" "red river".
*Mersey: Anglo Saxon meaning "boundary river"
*Ness: Old Norse meaning "isthmus"
*Quoile: Irish meaning "the narrow"
*Rhine: from the archaic German "Rhine", which in turn comes from Middle High German: "Rin", from the Proto-Indo-European root *"reie-" ("to flow, run"). [ [ Online Etymology Dictionary] ]
**The Reno River in Italy shares the same etymology.
*River Severn: Latin "Sabrina" from an Old British river goddess of that name, becoming "Hafren" in modern Welsh
*Slaney: Irish meaning "river of health"
*Thames: Latin "Tamesis" from Brythonic meaning "dark river"
**The River Thame and River Tamar have a similar etymological root
*Tyne: Brythonic meaning "river"
*Torne älv: Swedish "tower river" after a watchtower at the mouth of the river
*Volga River: Slavic влага "vlaga", волога "vologa" meaning "wetness", "humidity"Volga river#Nomenclature] alt. Finnic valkia "white" alt. Russian velikij "great" [Room, Adrian (2006). Placenames of the World. McFarland] []
*Wear: Brythonic meaning "water"

North America

*Athabasca: From the Woods Cree word "aðapaskāw", " [where] there are plants one after another". [Bright (2004:52)]
*Bow: After the reeds growing along its banks, which were used by the local Indians to make bows.
*Brazos: From the Spanish "Los Brazos de Dios", or "the arms of God". There are several different explanations for the name, all involving it being the first water to be found by desperately thirsty parties.
*Canadian River: The etymology is unclear. The name may have come from French-Canadian traders and hunters who traveled along the river, or early explorers may have thought that the river flowed into Canada.
*Chattahoochee: from Creek "cato hocce" (IPA|/ʧató hóːʧːi/), "marked rock". [Bright (2004:89)]
*Colorado: Spanish for "red-colored; reddish."
*Columbia: Named for Captain Robert Gray’s ship "Columbia Rediviva", allegedly the first to travel up the river.
*Cumberland: Named for Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.
*Delaware: After the Bay, named for Thomas West, Baron De la Warre, first English colonial governor of Virginia. [cite web |url= |title=Delaware |publisher=Online Etymology Dictionary |accessdate=2007-09-01]
*Fraser: Named for Simon Fraser, who confirmed it was a separate river from the Columbia.
*Hackensack: probably from Unami Delaware "ahkinkèshaki", "place of sharp ground". [Bright (2004:160)]
*Hiwassee: from the Cherokee meaning "stone wall", or from an Eastern Algonquian language meaning "beyond the hill" (e.g., Abenaki "awasadenek"). [Bright (2004:174)]
*Hudson: named for Henry Hudson, an Englishman sailing for the Netherlands, who explored it in 1609.
*Loup: French for "wolf", after the Pawnee "wolf people" (Skidi band).
*Mackenzie: After Alexander MacKenzie, the Scots-Canadian explorer.
*Mississippi: Ojibwe "misi-ziibi", "big river". [Bright (2004:290)]
*Missouri: Named for the Missouri Indians, who lived along the banks. Their name comes from the Illinois "mihsoori", meaning "dugout canoe". [McCafferty, Michael. 2004. " [ Correction: Etymology of Missouri] ". American Speech, 79.1:32]
*Nelson: Named for Robert Nelson, a ship's master who died at the mouth of the river in 1612.
*Ottawa: Named for the Ottawa people, a community of the Algonquin nation, who lived along the river until 1685.
*Peace: After Peace Point, the location of the ratification of the Treaty of the Peace.
*Platte: French "Rivière Plate" ("Flat River"), a calque of the Chiwere name "ñįbraske" ("flattened water").cite web |url= |title=Etymology |accessdate=2006-11-28 |author=Koontz, John |work=Siouan Languages]
*Potomac: From the Patowamek tribe noted by Captain John Smith. [Bright (2004:396)]
*Republican: Named for the Pawnee band known as "the Republicans".
*Río Grande: Spanish for "big river".
*Saint-Laurent: French for Saint Lawrence.
*Saskatchewan: From the Cree term Cree "kisiskāciwani-sīpiy", meaning "swift flowing river".
*Schuylkill: from the Dutch "Schulen-kill", meaning "hidden river".
*Stanislaus: named after Estanislao
*Susquehanna: Named after the Susquehannock Indians, whose name derives from an Algonquian word meaning "people at the falls", "roily water people", [Bright (2004:466)] or "muddy current". [Kelton, Dwight H. (1888). "Indian Names of Places Near the Great Lakes". Detroit, MI: Detroit Free Press Printing Company]
*Tennessee: Named for the Cherokee town of Tanasi, whose etymology is unknown. [Bright (2004:488)]
*Wabash: English spelling of French "Ouabache", from Miami-Illinois "waapaahšiiki", "it shines white". [Bright (2004:537)]
*Yukon: from an Athabaskan language (e.g., Koyukon "yookkene", Lower Tanana "yookuna"). [Bright (2004:583)]

outh America

*Amazon River: Greek (after the Amazons) alt. Indian (from Amassona 'boat destroyer') [ [ Amazon River ] ] [Amazon Rainforest#Etymology]
*Río Calle-Calle: Mapudungun for "lot of Iridaceaes"
*Río Cochrane: after Lord Thomas Cochrane who served in the Chilean Navy
*Río Futaleufú: Mapudungun for "big river"
*Río Ibañez: after Carlos Ibáñez del Campo former president of Chile
*Río Imperial: after the old city of Carahue, formelry known as Imperial.
*Paraná River: Guarani "Copious River" [ [ Places to visit in Paraguay when visiting Iguassu Falls] ]
*Río de la Plata: Spanish for "Silver River"
*Rio Roosevelt: after Theodore Roosevelt
*Río Valdivia: after the Spanish conquistador of Chile Pedro de Valdivia

ee also

* Hydronymy
* Lists of etymologies
* Toponomy



*Bright, William (2004). "Native American Place Names of the United States". Norman: University of Oklahoma Press

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