List of river name etymologies

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






  • Aboño. From Celtic *abon- 'river': OIr. ab, aub, MW afon, MBret auon, (PIE: *h2ep-h3on- 'river').
  • Argeş: from Greek or maybe Thracian arges = "bright"
  • Avon. From Celtic *abon- 'river': OIr. ab, aub, MW afon, MBret auon, (PIE: *h2ep-h3on- 'river').
  • Avonbeg: Irish meaning "small river"
  • Avonmore: Irish meaning "big river"
  • Awbeg: Irish meaning "small river"
  • Bistriţa: Slavic "bistra" = "fast, quick"
  • Bosna: likely from the Illyrian Bosona = "flowing water". Eponymous of Bosnia.
  • Boyne: Irish river goddess Boann, "white cow"
  • Cam: from Celtic kambo 'bend, coocked', Brythonic cam "crooked"
  • Caraş: Turkish "kara" = "black", "dark"
  • Clanrye: Irish meaning "harbour of the king"
  • Clwyd: Welsh meaning "hurdle"
  • Danube: Latin Danuvius, Dacian: Donaris, from Iranian (Scythian or Sarmatian) dānu- 'river', of Indo-European origin
  • Dobra: from Celtic *dubro 'dark': MIr. dobur 'black, unclean', MW dwfr 'water', MBret. dour (PIE *deubh-).
  • Drave: in Latin "Dravus", of Thracian or Illyrian origin, probably from PIE *dhreu = "to flow, to fall".
  • Don (Aberdeenshire, Scotland): from Celtic Devona 'goddess'
    • Ialomiţa: Slavic "jalov" = "infertile"
    • Prahova: Slavic "prag"="waterfall" or "prah"="dust"
    • Siret: ancient Thracian "Seretos", probably from PIE *sreu = "to flow"
  • 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"
  • Narva: Veps after "rapid" or "falls"
  • 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").[5]
    • The Reno River in Italy shares the same etymology.
  • Severn: Latin "Sabrina" from an Old British river goddess of that name, becoming "Hafren" in modern Welsh
  • Shannon: Irish Sionann, name of a river goddess, Old Irish Sinann, from sen 'old, ancient'[6]
  • Slaney: Irish meaning "river of health"
  • River Tay: Celtic river goddess Tawa (Tava, Tatha, "the silent one")[7]
  • Tambre (river). From Tamaris with the same root that Tamar.
  • Thames: Latin "Tamesis" from Brythonic meaning "dark river"
  • Tyne: Brythonic meaning "river"
  • Torne älv: Likely of Finnish origin, meaning "spear"[8]
  • Volga River: Slavic влага "vlaga", волога "vologa" meaning "wetness", "humidity";[9] alternatively, Proto-Uralic *valki- "white";[9] alternatively, Russian velikij "great"[10][11]
  • Wear: Brythonic meaning "water"

North America

South America

See also


  1. ^ Alph River
  2. ^ Antarctic Explorers
  3. ^ Indus#History
  4. ^ Murray River#Exploration
  5. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  6. ^ Beck, Noémie (2009). "Irish River-Goddesses: Drowning and Wisdom". Goddesses in Celtic Religion. Université Lumière Lyon 2. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
  7. ^ Hill, Jack A. (3 January 2017). Adam Ferguson and Ethical Integrity: The Man and His Prescriptions for the Moral Life. ISBN 9781498504584.
  8. ^ Svenskt ortnamnslexikon ("Swedish Place-Name Dictionary"), 2003, pp. 322.
  9. ^ a b Volga river#Nomenclature
  10. ^ Room, Adrian (2006). Placenames of the World. McFarland
  11. ^ Room, Adrian (2006). Placenames of the World: Origins and Meanings of the Names for 6,600 Countries, Cities, Territories, Natural Features, and Historic Sites. ISBN 9780786422487.
  12. ^ Bright (2004:52)
  13. ^ Bright (2004:89)
  14. ^ "Captain Robert Gray explores Grays Bay and charts the mouth of Grays River in May 1792". Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  15. ^ "Delaware". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
  16. ^ Bright (2004:160)
  17. ^ Bright (2004:174)
  18. ^ Bright (2004:290)
  19. ^ McCafferty, Michael. 2004. Correction: Etymology of Missouri. American Speech, 79.1:32
  20. ^ Koontz, John. "Etymology". Siouan Languages. Retrieved 28 November 2006.
  21. ^ Bright (2004:396)
  22. ^ "Snake River (Hells Canyon)". National Wild and Scenic Rivers Program. Archived from the original on 10 June 2010. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  23. ^ Bright (2004:466)
  24. ^ Kelton, Dwight H. (1888). Indian Names of Places Near the Great Lakes. Detroit, MI: Detroit Free Press Printing Company
  25. ^ Bright (2004:488)
  26. ^ Bright (2004:537)
  27. ^ Bright (2004:583)
  28. ^ Amazon River
  29. ^ Amazon Rainforest#Etymology
  30. ^ Places to visit in Paraguay when visiting Iguassu Falls Archived 12 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine


  • Bright, William (2004). Native American Place Names of the United States. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Blažek, Václav, and Ondřej Šefčík. "Oronyms Derived from Water? Mons Abnobae and Haraitī". Historische Sprachforschung [Historical Linguistics] 124 (2011): 239–49.
  • Hamp, Eric P. ""Water" in Italic and Keltic". In: Etudes Celtiques, vol. 12, fascicule 2, 1970. pp. 547–550. DOI: ;
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