A tributary is a branch that flows into the main stream, like the White River, the Arkansas River, the Yazoo River ,and the Red River — each a tributary of the mighty Mississippi.

The noun tributary is related to the word tribute and both come from the Latin word tributum, meaning “a thing contributed or paid.” Long ago, a tributary was someone who was forced to pay a person or group in return for protection — namely from those who received the tribute. Today, a tributary is a smaller body of water that flows into a larger one or a contributing factor in something that happens.

Definitions of tributary
  1. noun
    a branch that flows into the main stream
    synonyms: affluent, confluent, feeder
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    a branch of a river that flows away from the main stream and does not rejoin it
    type of:
    a stream or river connected to a larger one
  2. adjective
    (of a stream) flowing into a larger stream
    being of second rank or importance or value; not direct or immediate
  3. adjective
    paying tribute
    “a tributary colony”
    caused by law or conscience to follow a certain course
  4. adjective
    tending to bring about; being partly responsible for
    synonyms: conducive, contributing, contributive, contributory
    producing an effect
Word Family