AskDefine | Define elbe

Dictionary Definition

Elbe n : a river in central Europe that arises in northwestern Czechoslovakia and flows northward through Germany to empty into the North Sea [syn: Elbe River]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Elbe

Middle High German


  1. elves
  2. friendly spirits, ghostly beings
  3. Plural of alb or alp

Alternative spellings


Derived terms



  • Marshall Jones Company (1930). Mythology of All Races Series, Volume 2 Eddic, Great Britain: Marshall Jones Company, 1930, pp. 220.

Extensive Definition

The Elbe (; lang-de die Elbe; Low German: de Ilv) is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It originates in the northwestern Czech Republic before traversing much of Germany and flowing into the North Sea. Its total length has been given as .


The Elbe rises at an elevation of about in the Krkonoše (also known as Giant Mountains or in German as Riesengebirge) on the north west borders of the Czech Republic. Of the numerous small streams whose waters compose the infant river, the most important is the Bílé Labe, or White Elbe. After plunging down the of the Labský vodopád, the latter stream unites with the steeply torrential Malé Labe, and thereafter the united stream of the Elbe pursues a southerly course, emerging from the mountain glens at and continuing on to Pardubice, where it turns sharply to the west. At Kolín some further on, it bends gradually towards the north-west. At the village of Káraný, a little above Brandýs nad Labem it picks up the Jizera.
At Mělník its stream is more than doubled in volume by the Vltava, or Moldau, a river which winds northwards through Bohemia. Although upstream from the confluence Vltava is longer (434 km vs. 294), has larger discharge and larger drainage basin, due historical reasons (at the confluence the Vltava meets the Elbe at almost a right angle, so it appears as a tributary) river continues as Elbe.
Some distance lower down, at Litoměřice, the waters of the Elbe are tinted by the reddish Ohře (Eger). Thus augmented, and swollen into a stream wide, the Elbe carves a path through the basaltic mass of the České Středohoří, churning its way through a deep, narrow rocky gorge. Shortly after crossing the Czech-German frontier, and passing through the sandstone defiles of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the stream assumes a north-westerly direction, which on the whole it preserves right to the North Sea.
The river rolls through Dresden and finally, beyond Meißen, enters on its long journey across the North German Plain passing along the former border of East Germany, touching Torgau, Wittenberg, Dessau, Magdeburg, Wittenberge, and Hamburg on the way, and taking on the waters of the Mulde and Saale from the west, and those of the Schwarze Elster, Havel and Elde from the east. Soon the Elbe reaches Hamburg, and then passes through Holstein until it flows into the North Sea at Cuxhaven. Near its mouth it passes Otterndorf, Glückstadt, Brunsbüttel and the entrance to the Kiel Canal.


The Elbe has been navigable by commercial vessels since 1842, and provides important trade links as far inland as Prague. The river is linked by canals to the industrial areas of Germany and to Berlin. The Elbe-Lübeck Canal links the Elbe to the Baltic Sea, as does the Kiel Canal, whose western entrance is near the mouth of the Elbe.
Before Germany was reunited, waterway transport in Western Germany was hindered by the fact that inland navigation to Hamburg had to pass through the German Democratic Republic. The Elbe Seitenkanal (Elbe Lateral Canal) was built between the Mittellandkanal and the lower Elbe to restore this connection. When the two nations were reunited, works began to improve and restore the original links: the Elbe Canal Bridge near Magdeburg now allows large barges to cross the Elbe without having to enter the river. The often low water levels of the Elbe do not hinder navigation to Berlin any longer. (Source: NoorderSoft Waterways Database)


First attested in Latin as Albis, the name Elbe means "river" or "river-bed" and is nothing more than the High German version of a word (*albiz) found elsewhere in Germanic; cf. Old Norse river name Elfr, Swedish dialectal älv "deep river-bed", Old English river name Ielf, and Middle Low German elve "river-bed" .


The Elbe was recorded by Ptolemy as Albis (Germanic for "river", see below) in Germania Magna with its source in the Asciburgis mountains (Krkonoše, Riesengebirge or Giant Mountains), where the Germanic Vandalii lived.
The Elbe has long been an important delineator of European geography. The Romans knew the river as the Albis; however, they only attempted once to move the Eastern border of their empire forward from the Rhine to the Elbe, and this attempt failed in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, after which they never seriously tried again. In the Middle Ages it formed the eastern limit of the Empire of Charlemagne. The river's navigable sections were also essential to the success of the Hanseatic League and much trade was carried on its waters.
In 1945, as World War II was drawing to a close, Nazi Germany was caught between the armies of the western Allies advancing from the west and the Soviet Union advancing from the east. On April 25, these two forces linked up near Torgau, on the Elbe. The event was marked as Elbe Day. After the war, the Elbe formed part of the border between East and West Germany.
According to Russian accounts, In April, 1970, when the SMERSH facility in Magdeburg was being transferred to the East German government, the remains of Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun, Joseph Goebbels, Magda Goebbels and the Goebbels' six children were reportedly exhumed, thoroughly cremated, and the ashes finally dumped unceremoniously into the Elbe.
elbe in Afrikaans: Elbe
elbe in Arabic: إلبه
elbe in Asturian: Ríu Elba
elbe in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Лаба
elbe in Bosnian: Elba
elbe in Breton: Elbe
elbe in Bulgarian: Елба (река)
elbe in Catalan: Elba (riu)
elbe in Czech: Labe
elbe in Danish: Elben
elbe in German: Elbe
elbe in Estonian: Elbe
elbe in Spanish: Río Elba
elbe in Esperanto: Elbo (rivero)
elbe in Basque: Elba ibaia
elbe in Persian: البه
elbe in French: Elbe (fleuve)
elbe in Western Frisian: Elbe
elbe in Galician: Río Elba
elbe in Korean: 엘베 강
elbe in Upper Sorbian: Łobjo
elbe in Croatian: Laba
elbe in Ido: Elbe
elbe in Indonesian: Elbe
elbe in Icelandic: Saxelfur
elbe in Italian: Elba (fiume)
elbe in Hebrew: אלבה (נהר)
elbe in Swahili (macrolanguage): Elbe
elbe in Latin: Albis
elbe in Latvian: Elba
elbe in Luxembourgish: Elbe
elbe in Lithuanian: Elbė
elbe in Lombard: Elba
elbe in Hungarian: Elba
elbe in Dutch: Elbe
elbe in Japanese: エルベ川
elbe in Norwegian: Elben
elbe in Norwegian Nynorsk: Elbe
elbe in Low German: Ilv
elbe in Polish: Łaba
elbe in Portuguese: Rio Elba
elbe in Romanian: Râul Elba
elbe in Russian: Эльба (река)
elbe in Albanian: Elba
elbe in Simple English: Elbe
elbe in Slovak: Labe
elbe in Serbian: Лаба (река)
elbe in Finnish: Elbe
elbe in Swedish: Elbe
elbe in Turkish: Elbe Nehri
elbe in Ukrainian: Ельба
elbe in Urdu: ایلب
elbe in Chinese: 易北河
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