1777, "a projecting part of a rotating machinery used to impart motion to another part," from Dutch cam "cog of a wheel," originally "comb," from Proto-Germanic *kambaz "comb," from PIE root *gembh- "tooth, nail." It is thus a cognate of English comb (n.). This might have combined with English camber "having a slight arch;" or the whole thing could be from camber.
It converts regular rotary motion into irregular, fast-and-slow rotary or reciprocal motion. "The original method was by cogs or teeth fixed or cut at certain points in the circumference or disc of a wheel ..." [OED]. Cam-shaft attested from 1850.
early 13c. (late 12c. in surnames), "a considerable body of water flowing with perceptible current in a definite course or channel," from Anglo-French rivere, Old French riviere "river, riverside, river bank" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *riparia "riverbank, seashore, river" (source also of Spanish ribera, Italian riviera), noun use of fem. of Latin riparius "of a riverbank" (see riparian).
The generalized sense of "a copious flow" of anything is from late 14c., as is figurative use. The Old English word was ea "river," cognate with Gothic ahwa, Latin aqua (see aqua-). Romanic cognate words tend to retain the sense "river bank" as the main one, or else the secondary Latin sense "coast of the sea" (compare Riviera). In printing by 1898: "streaks of white space in text caused by the spaces between words in several lines happening to fall one almost below the other."
U.S. slang phrase up the river "in prison" (1891) is said to be originally in reference to Sing Sing prison, up the Hudson River from New York City. The phrase down the river "done for, finished" (1893) perhaps echoes the sense in sell down the river (1836, American English), originally of slaves sold from the Upper South to the harsher plantations of the Deep South.
"a tidal river," 1650s; see salt (n. ) + river. as a proper name, it was used early 19c. with reference to backwoods inhabitants of the U.S., especially those of Kentucky (there is a Salt River in the Bluegrass region of the state; the river is not salty, but salt manufactured from salt licks in the area was shipped down the river). The U.S. political slang phrase to row (someone) up Salt River "send (someone) to political defeat" probably owes its origin to this geographical reference, as the first attested use (1828) is in a Kentucky context. The phrase may also refer to the salt of tears.
city in eastern England, Old English Grontabricc (c. 745) "Bridge on the River Granta" (a Celtic river name, of obscure origin). The change to Cante- and later Cam- was due to Norman influence. The river name Cam is a back-formation in this case, but Cam also was a legitimate Celtic river name, meaning "crooked." The university dates to 1209. Cambridge in Massachusetts, U.S., originally was New Towne but was renamed 1638 after the founding there of Harvard College, John Harvard being a graduate of Cambridge in England.