noun Geology.

a surface deposit consisting of sand or clay impregnated with crystalline salts such as sodium nitrate or sodium chloride.
a zone of calcium carbonate or other carbonates in soils of semiarid regions.

Compare duricrust, hardpan.

Origin of caliche

1855–60; < Spanish: flake of lime, equivalent to cal lime (< Latin calc-; see chalk) + -iche noun suffix Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for caliche

Historical Examples of caliche

  • Should he bear to right or left in circling the edge of the caliche on his hunt for the footprints?

    Dust of the Desert

    Robert Welles Ritchie

  • Caliche is a reddish-brown to white layer found in many desert soils.


    A. S. Walker

  • All this is the result of digging for caliche, and blasting it out of the sandy bed in which it has lain God only knows how long.

    Peru in the Guano Age

    Alexander James Duffield

  • Hence, roads are referred to as clay, gumbo, sandy or caliche roads as local custom may elect.

  • And if the road passed over the caliche flat thered be wheel marks; that was sure.

    Dust of the Desert

    Robert Welles Ritchie

British Dictionary definitions for caliche



Also called: calcrete a bed of sand or clay in arid regions cemented by calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, and other soluble minerals
a surface layer of soil encrusted with calcium carbonate, occurring in arid regionsAlso called: duricrust

Word Origin for caliche

C20: from American Spanish, from Latin calx lime
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 caliche

sodium nitrate deposits in Chile and Peru, 1858, from American Spanish, from Spanish caliche "pebble in a brick," from Latin calx "pebble" (see chalk (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

caliche in Science



See hardpan.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.