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Rivière vs. Fleuve

What is the difference between the meaning and use of the nouns "rivière" and "fleuve". Duolingo translates them both as "river", however, in English there are differences between words like creek and stream, so I was wondering whether that was also the case in French.

Thank you!

March 23, 2018



Un fleuve is a large river which flows directly into the sea. Une rivière is a river which flows in a fleuve or another rivière. There is also un ruisseau which is a small stream.

Par exemple, le Mississippi est un fleuve, et le Missouri est une rivière.


ruisseau :: stream

rivière :: river

fleuve :: <sub>Delta/</sub>Seaway/River

you wont have to know the specific difference geophysically. just remember when you hear the titles of named flowing water bodies as what they are called

Rivière Saint-Maurice

Fleuve Saint-Laurent

Fleuve Mackenzie


Merci! I'm glad you asked the question. I was wondering the same thing, but didn't ask. Thanks too for all the great answers.


Any difference between "creek" and "stream" is pretty obscure, and I think they mean the same thing in everyday use. Just like we have many words for "street" such as "avenue", "boulevard", etc., and while some are used for bigger streets than others, for the most part any original distinction in meaning is gone so we have many unnecessary synonyms. Just to give you more words to learn when learning a language. :-)


Well there's a scientific/geographical difference between "creek" and "stream" and "avenues" typically run perpendicular to "streets", at least they do in Canada. I am not entirely sure about "boulevard", though.


Just remember them by heart, apparently the french like to take their "rivierès" and their "fleuves" very seriously

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