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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Distributary \Dis*trib"u*ta*ry\, a. Tending to distribute or be distributed; that distributes; distributive.


n. (context hydrology English) A branch of a river delta; a channel that distributes a river's waters into the sea, as with the Atchafalaya River of the Mississippi.


n. a branch of a river that flows away from the main stream and does not rejoin it [ant: feeder]


A distributary, or a distributary channel, is a stream that branches off and flows away from a main stream channel. They are a common feature of river deltas. The phenomenon is known as river bifurcation. The opposite of a distributary is a tributary. Distributaries usually occur as a stream nears a lake or the ocean, but they can occur inland as well, such as on alluvial fans or when a tributary stream bifurcates as it nears its confluence with a larger stream. In some cases, a minor distributary can divert so much water from the main channel that it can become the main route.

Usage examples of "distributary".

What we have here is short, fat river that spreads out into a network of distributaries and marshes when it reaches the sea.