Distinguish Between a Tributary and a Distributary

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 9th, 2023

The difference between a Tributary and a Distributary is that a Tributary flows towards the main river, while a Distributary flows away from the parent water body. While tributaries are streams or rivers that flow towards a river, lake, or creek, their opposite rivers flow away from a river or stream. The place where the tributaries join the original water body is called Sangam. Distributaries refer to the division of a river or a stream. They are found in river deltas.

Difference between Tributary and Distributary

A tributary is a river/stream that joins a larger parent river/stream/lake. While a distributary is a stream that flows opposite from the mainstream. The major differences between a tributary and a distributary are elaborated in the table given below.

Tributary Distributary
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.
Example: The tributary of river Ganga is river Yamuna. Example: The distributary of the river Ganga is Hooghly.

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