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  1. the bed or stratum of earth or earthy material immediately under the surface soil.
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Origin of subsoil

First recorded in 1790–1800; sub- + soil1
Also called undersoil.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for subsoil

Historical Examples

  • It provides that the State is entitled to retain what they call ‘subsoil rights.’

    Across the Mesa

    Jarvis Hall

  • I think, however, I will turn over a furrow of subsoil in it.

    The Professor at the Breakfast Table

    Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.)

  • The strength of team depends entirely on the character of the subsoil.

    Farm drainage

    Henry Flagg French

  • The subsoil is a store of inert fertility that should not remain dormant.

  • They improve the physical condition of the subsoil as well as the top soil.

British Dictionary definitions for subsoil


    1. Also called: undersoilthe layer of soil beneath the surface soil and overlying the bedrock
    2. (as modifier)a subsoil plough
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  1. (tr) to plough (land) to a depth below the normal ploughing level and so break up the subsoil
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Derived Formssubsoiler, noun
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 subsoil


1799, from sub- + soil (n.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

subsoil in Science


  1. In an ABC soil, the B horizon. The term was formerly used to mean the layer of earth below the humus or surface soil.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.