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  1. the portion of the earth's surface consisting of disintegrated rock and humus.
  2. a particular kind of earth: sandy soil.
  3. the ground as producing vegetation or as cultivated for its crops: fertile soil.
  4. a country, land, or region: an act committed on American soil.
  5. the ground or earth: tilling the soil.
  6. any place or condition providing the opportunity for growth or development: Some believe that poverty provides the soil for crime.

Origin of soil1

1300–50; Middle English soile < Anglo-French soyl < Latin solium seat, confused with solum ground
Related formssoil·less, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for soilless

Historical Examples

  • She clung to him; she writhed around him; she kissed with her soilless lips the base dust at his feet.



  • True to her prediction, the Texan drew up at the edge of a black ridge that cut diagonally into the treeless, soilless waste.

    Prairie Flowers

    James B. Hendryx

  • Passed over a very bleak, treeless, barren waste of mountain and moorland, most of it too rocky or soilless for even heather.

British Dictionary definitions for soilless


  1. the top layer of the land surface of the earth that is composed of disintegrated rock particles, humus, water, and airSee zonal soil, azonal soil, intrazonal soil, horizon (def. 4), horizon (def. 5) Related adjective: telluric
  2. a type of this material having specific characteristicsloamy soil
  3. land, country, or regionone's native soil
  4. the soil life and work on a farm; landhe belonged to the soil, as his forefathers had
  5. any place or thing encouraging growth or development

Word Origin

C14: from Anglo-Norman, from Latin solium a seat, but confused with Latin solum the ground


  1. to make or become dirty or stained
  2. (tr) to pollute with sin or disgrace; sully; defilehe soiled the family honour by his cowardice
  1. the state or result of soiling
  2. refuse, manure, or excrement

Word Origin

C13: from Old French soillier to defile, from soil pigsty, probably from Latin sūs a swine


  1. (tr) to feed (livestock) freshly cut green fodder either to fatten or purge them

Word Origin

C17: perhaps from obsolete vb (C16) soil to manure, from soil ² (n)
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

Word Origin and History for soilless



early 13c., "to defile or pollute with sin," from Old French soillier "to splatter with mud, to foul or make dirty," originally "to wallow" (12c., Modern French souillier), from souil "tub, wild boar's wallow, pigsty," which is from either Latin solium "tub for bathing; seat," or Latin suculus "little pig," from sus "pig." Literal meaning "to make dirty, begrime" is attested from c.1300 in English. Related: Soiled; soiling.



c.1300, originally "land, area, place," from Anglo-French soil "piece of ground, place" (13c.), from an merger or confusion of Old French sol "bottom, ground, soil" (12c., from Latin solum "soil, ground;" see sole (n.1)), Old French soeul, sueil "threshold, area, place" (from Latin solium "seat"), and Old French soil, soille "a miry place," from soillier (see soil (v.)).

Meaning "place of one's nativity" is from c.1400. Meaning "mould, earth, dirt" (especially that which plants grow in) is attested from mid-15c.



"filth, dirt, refuse matter, sewage, liquid likely to contain excrement," c.1600, earlier "miry or muddy place" (early 15c.), from Old French soille "miry place," from soillier (v.) "to make dirty," and in part a native formation from soil (v.). This is the sense in archaic night-soil.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

soilless in Science


  1. The loose top layer of the Earth's surface, consisting of rock and mineral particles mixed with decayed organic matter (humus), and capable of retaining water, providing nutrients for plants, and supporting a wide range of biotic communities. Soil is formed by a combination of depositional, chemical, and biological processes and plays an important role in the carbon, nitrogen, and hydrologic cycles. Soil types vary widely from one region to another, depending on the type of bedrock they overlie and the climate in which they form. In wet and humid regions, for example, soils tend to be thicker than they do in dry regions. See more at A horizon B horizon C horizon. See illustration at ABC soil.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

soilless in Culture


Material on the surface of the Earth on which plants can grow. (See topsoil.)


Soil is produced by the weathering of rocks.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.