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River IJssel (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɛi̯səl]), sometimes called Gelderse IJssel ("Gelderland IJssel") to avoid confusion with its Hollandse IJssel namesake in the west of the Netherlands, is a branch of the Rhine in the Dutch provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel. River IJssel flows from Westervoort, east of the city of Arnhem, until it discharges into the IJsselmeer ("Lake IJssel", until the 1932 completion of the Afsluitdijk known as the Zuiderzee, a North Sea inlet). River IJssel is one of the three major distributary branches into which the Rhine divides itself shortly after crossing the German-Dutch border, the other two being the rivers Nederrijn and Waal.



The name "IJssel" is a blend of IJ and the river's ancient name Sala, thought to derive respectively from Germanic *auja "river, water" and *sala "dirty" (cf. OE ēa and Du zaluw). In a similar fashion, the last section of the neighbouring Overijsselse Vecht river is known as Zwarte Water, Dutch for "black water". During the Middle Ages, the Zuiderzee had not yet formed, and in its place there was an inland lake known as Vlies (Lat. Flevo), and the IJssel flowed through the surrounding lakelands. However, since the formation of the Zuiderzee and obstruction from the Afsluitdijk, the IJssel no longer flows into its estuary, the Vlie, now restricted in meaning and referring only to the strait separating the islands of Vlieland (itself named after the Vlie strait) and Terschelling. It is hypothesised that the now-poldered tidal inlets of Medemblik and IJ (near Amsterdam) once were branches of river IJssel.

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