2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Geography of Asia

Map of the Tigris-Euphrates Watershed
Map of the Tigris-Euphrates Watershed
Origin Eastern Turkey
Mouth Shatt al Arab
Basin countries Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq

The Tigris is the eastern member of the pair of great rivers that define Mesopotamia, along with the Euphrates, which flows from the mountains of Anatolia through Iraq.


The original Sumerian name was Idigna or Idigina, which can be interpreted as "the swift river" or "the river that goes", contrasted to its neighbour, the Euphrates, whose leisurely pace caused it to deposit more silt and build up a higher bed than the Tigris. This form was borrowed and gave rise to Akkadian Idiqlat. Either through a Persian intermediary or borrowed directly from Akkadian, the word was adopted into Greek as Tigris.

In Pahlavi, tigr means "arrow", in the same family as Old Persian tigra- "pointed" (compare tigra-xauda), Modern Persian têz "sharp", Kurdish tij "sharp" (hence the variants in Dicle). However, it does not appear that this was the original name of the river, but that it (like the Semitic forms of the name) was coined as an imitation of the indigenous Sumerian name. This is similar to the name Persian name of the Euphrates, Ufratu, which does have a meaning in Persian, but is still modelled after the Sumerian name Purattu.

Another name for this watercourse, used from the time of the Persian Empire, is Arvand; today, the name Arvand refers to the lower part of the Tigris (ie. the Shatt al-Arab) in Persian.

The name of the Tigris in different languages that have been important to the region:

The Tigris outside Diyarbakır, Turkey
The Tigris outside Diyarbakır, Turkey
Language Name for Tigris ( transliteration)
Akkadian Idiqlat
Arabic دجلة (Diğlä)
Greek ἡ Τίγρης, -ητος (hē Tígrēs);

ἡ, ὁ Τίγρις, -ιδος (hē, ho Tígris)

Hebrew חידקל (Ḥîddeqel)
Kurdish Dîjle
Old Persian Tigrā; Middle Persian Tigr
Modern Persian دجله (Dijle)
Sumerian Idigna/Idigina 𒈦𒄘𒃼
Syriac ܕܩܠܬ (Deqlaṯ)
Turkish Dicle


Tigris River in Mosul, Iraq
Tigris River in Mosul, Iraq

The Tigris is approximately 1,800 km (1,150 miles) long, rising in the Taurus Mountains of eastern Turkey and flowing in a generally southeasterly direction until it joins the Euphrates near Al Qurna in southern Iraq. The two rivers together form the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which empties into the Persian Gulf. The river is joined by many tributaries, including the Diyala and both the Upper and Lower Zab rivers.

Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, stands on the banks of the Tigris, while the port city of Basra straddles the Shatt al-Arab. In ancient times, many of the great cities of Mesopotamia stood on or near the river, drawing water from it to irrigate the civilization of the Sumerians. Notable Tigris-side cities included Nineveh, Ctesiphon and Seleucia, while the city of Lagash was irrigated by Tigris water delivered to it via a canal dug around 2400 BC. Saddam Hussein's hometown, Tikrit, is also located on the river and derives its name from it.

The Tigris has long been an important transport route in a largely desert country. It is navigable as far as Baghdad by shallow-draft vessels, but rafts are required for transport upstream to Mosul. River trade declined in importance during the 20th century as the Basra-Baghdad-Mosul railway and roads took over much of the freight traffic.

Management and water quality

The river is heavily dammed in both Iraq and Turkey, in order to provide water for irrigating the arid and semi-desert regions bordering the river valley. Damming has also been important for averting floods in Iraq, to which the Tigris has historically been notoriously prone following snowmelt in the Turkish mountains around April. Recent Turkish damming of the river has been the subject of some controversy, both for its environmental effects within Turkey and its potential to reduce the flow of water downstream.

A coalition of 34 countries destroyed Iraq's water treatment plants during the 1990 Gulf War, affecting the water quality of the Tigris.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq the Tigris has seen significant water quality improvement in Iraq due to efforts of the United States of America in rehabilitating and expanding sewage treatment plants.

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