Saturday, June 18, 2011

A River Runs Through It


Terry came across a reference to fluvial deposits, and asked about the origin of the word fluvial. It refers to a river and comes to us from the Latin fluvius, river. It doesn’t seem to be used all that much these days, having been supplanted in that phrase by alluvial (L. alluvium, washed against).

Other words indebted to the Latin fluvius include

  • fluviated: marshy or overflowed by a river
  • fluviatic: growing or living in streams
  • fluviatile: formed or produced by the action of rivers
  • fluviose: flowing
  • multifluvian: entered by many rivers


The Latin amnis also means river, and it led to the obsolete terms

  • amnicolist: one who dwells near a river
  • amnigenous: born or bred in, of, or near a river.
  • interamnian: lying between or enclosed by rivers


Then there’s the Greek potamos, river. It shows up in

  • hippopotamus: the African “river-horse”
  • Mesopotamia: the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers
  • potamian: a freshwater turtle
  • potamic: relating to rivers
  • potamography: the geographical description of rivers
  • potamology: the branch of science that deals in rivers
  • potamometer: an instrument for measuring the force of a river current
  • potamophilous: river-loving
  • potamoplankton: plankton found in rivers and streams
  • tychopotamic: occurring occasionally in or near rivers


Finally, we have the Latin riparius (riverbank) and its cousin rivulus (little river). They are responsible for

  • riparian: related to the banks of a river
  • ripary: a river or stream
  • rivage: a coast, shore, or riverbank
  • rivulet: a small river or stream


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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