Distinguish Between a Tributary and a Distributary?

By Shivank Goel|Updated : September 5th, 2022

A river or a stream that joins a larger stream, parent river, or lake is called a tributary. On the other hand, a stream that flows away from the mainstream is called a distributary. Find out more differences between a tributary and a distributary in the table given below:



Flows towards the parent water body (river, stream, or lake).

Flows away from the parent water body (river or stream).

Drains the surrounding water basin of its groundwater and surface water.

Forms a delta or an estuary.

Does not flow directly toward a sea, ocean, or lake.

It May or may not flow directly towards a larger water body, like a sea, ocean, or lake.

E.g. - The tributary of river Ganga is river Yamuna.

E.g., The distributary of the river Ganga is Hoogly.

Difference Between Tributaries and Distributaries

While tributaries are streams or rivers that flow towards a river, lake, or stream, their opposite distributaries flow away from a river or a stream. The place where tributaries join the parent water body is called a confluence. Distributaries refer to the bifurcation of a river or a stream. They are found in river deltas.

Related Questions:-


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  • Tributaries are rivers or streams that flow towards the main river, lake, or stream, while distributaries flow away from the parent water body by bifurcating a river or a stream.

  • An example of a tributary is the Yamuna river, which joins the parent river, which is the Ganga. On the other hand, the example of a distributary is the river Hooghly, which bifurcates the parent river Ganga.

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