Terminology Related to Rivers

The study of rivers is known as Potamology.


Alluvial means deposited by river. Alluvial deposits consist of sand, clay, gravel and organic matter. Alluvial deposits form floodplains and deltas. They contain most of the world’s supply of tin ore, as well as, in some regions, gold, platinum, and gemstones.

Brackish waters

Water which is saltier than river water but less salty than sea water.


It is a triangular tract of deposits at the mouth of a river. It is composed of sands, silts and clay deposited by river water and is extremely productive agriculturally. Bird's Foot, Cuspate and Arcuate (fan-shaped) are the types of delta depending on the shape the river creates.


It is the place where river meets the sea, also called the mouth of the river.


Also known as the source, headwaters of a river is the furthest place in that river from its estuary or confluence with another river.

Oxbow lake

An oxbow lake is a U-shaped body of water that forms when a wide meander from the main stem of a river is cut off, creating a free-standing body of water. This landform is so named for its distinctive curved shape, resembling the bow pin of an oxbow.

River Basin

It is the area of land drained by a river and its tributaries or in other words, the area of land from where the water flows across to a river. It is also known as the drainage basin. The area within the river basin is referred to as the catchment area.


A dam is an artificial barrier built across a river with the purpose of storing water to be utilised for generation of electricity, irrigation etc.


A barrage is a kind of diversion dam intended to control the flow of water with the use of large number of gates provided in it.


A gorge is a steep ravine between hills or mountains usually created by the erosive activity of a river over hundreds of years.


A meander is a bend in the course of a river. A meander forms when moving water in a stream erodes the outer banks and widens its valley, and the inner part of the river has less energy and deposits silt.


A stream or river which flows into another river. The place at which the two rivers join is known as the confluence.


A distributary is a river which branches off from the main river to merge into the sea. A distributary is the opposite of tributary. Distributaries are common feature at the deltas.

Hydraulic Action

It is type of erosion of the banks of a river caused by the movement of water. When flowing water strikes against the surface, it causes mechanical weathering.