A significant number of Enterococcus strains from pristine waters of two brooks in Finland formed a distinct cluster on the basis of whole-cell protein fingerprinting by one-dimensional SDS-PAGE. The strains shared the following characteristics. Cells were ovoid, Gram-positive-staining and non-spore-forming, appearing singly or in pairs or chains. They were facultatively anaerobic and catalase-negative. Growth in broth containing 6.5 % NaCl or at 45 °C was weak or absent. Production of D antigen was variable. The strains tolerated 60 °C for 30 min, 40 % bile and tellurite, hydrolysed aesculin strongly and gelatin weakly, produced no acid from hippurate and did not reduce it, grew weakly at 10 °C, showed a strong reaction for the Voges-Proskauer test and produced acid from methyl α-d-glucoside, mannitol, sorbitol and sucrose, with weak or no production of acid from methyl α-d-mannoside, l-arabinose, gluconate and l-xylose. Several of the strains were selected for identification on the basis of sequencing of almost the whole 16S rRNA gene and partial atpA and pheS genes and of (GTG)(5)-PCR fingerprints. Partial atpA and pheS gene sequencing was also performed for those type strains of Enterococcus species without available sequences in the database. The pristine brook isolates formed a novel species, for which the name Enterococcus rivorum sp. nov. (type strain S299(T) = HAMBI 3055(T) = LMG 25899(T) = CCM 7986(T)) is proposed. On the basis of 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity, E. rivorum sp. nov. is related to the Enterococcus faecalis genogoup. It is distinguished from described Enterococcus species on the basis of 16S rRNA, atpA and pheS gene sequences and whole-cell protein and (GTG)(5)-PCR fingerprints. It is most closely related to E. faecalis, but DNA-DNA hybridization confirms it to represent a novel species.