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[silt] /sɪlt/
earthy matter, fine sand, or the like carried by moving or running water and deposited as a sediment.
verb (used without object)
to become filled or choked up with silt.
verb (used with object)
to fill or choke up with silt.
Origin of silt
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English cylte gravel, perhaps orig. salty deposit; compare Old English unsylt unsalted, unseasoned, sylting seasoning, syltan to salt, season, Norwegian sylt salty swamp, German Sülze salt marsh, brine
Related forms
siltation, noun
silty, adjective
desilt, verb (used with object)
Can be confused
sand, sediment, silt. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for silt
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The tides have gradually filled their shallow harbors with silt.

  • The floor of the valley was silt, sand and gravel—they would find nothing there.

    Space Prison Tom Godwin
  • And all this silt is deposited in the flat delta below New Orleans.

    From Pole to Pole

    Sven Anders Hedin
  • These methods have notable effect on silt and acid production.

    The Nation's River United States Department of the Interior
  • There must be no halting of its contents, and no deposit of filth or silt at any point.

  • Millions of tons of silt have been deposited in this great alluvial basin.

    The Gates of India Thomas Holdich
  • Five of them were found buried in the silt under the streets of Glasgow.

    Primitive Man Louis Figuier
  • The rock fragments—soil, gravel, and silt—carried by a glacier.

    Geology William J. Miller
British Dictionary definitions for silt


a fine deposit of mud, clay, etc, esp one in a river or lake
(usually foll by up) to fill or become filled with silt; choke
Derived Forms
siltation, noun
silty, adjective
Word Origin
C15: of Scandinavian origin; compare Norwegian, Danish sylt salt marsh; related to Old High German sulza salt marsh; see salt
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for silt

mid-15c., originally "sediment deposited by seawater," probably from a Scandinavian source (cf. Norwegian and Danish sylt "salt marsh"), or from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch silte, sulte "salt marsh, brine," from Proto-Germanic *sultjo- (cf. Old English sealt, Old High German sulza "saltwater," German Sulze "brine"), from PIE *sal- (see salt (n.)).


"to become choked with silt" (of river channels, harbors, etc.), 1799, from silt (n.). Related: Silted; silting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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silt in Science
A sedimentary material consisting of grains or particles of disintegrated rock, smaller than sand and larger than clay. The diameter of the particles ranges from 0.0039 to 0.0625 mm. Silt is often found at the bottom of bodies of water where it accumulates slowly by settling through the water.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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