excavation and piling of earth in connection with an engineering operation.
Military. a construction formed chiefly of earth for protection against enemy fire, used in both offensive and defensive operations.
an artistic work that consists of a large-scale alteration or modification of an area of land in a configuration designed by an artist or of an artist's sculptural installation, as in a museum or gallery, of soil, rock, or similar elemental materials.

Origin of earthwork

First recorded in 1625–35; earth + work Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for earthwork

Contemporary Examples of earthwork

  • The mask also points to how early Smithson came to the main motif of his most famous work, the “Spiral Jetty” earthwork from 1970.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Spirit of Land Art

    Blake Gopnik

    August 22, 2012

Historical Examples of earthwork

  • A part of the earthwork can still be seen in the garden of a Hockingport residence.

    Chronicles of Border Warfare

    Alexander Scott Withers

  • The road bed may be shaped in connection with the other earthwork.

  • From the fuss it was apparent that the abattis and earthwork had succumbed.

    The Long Roll

    Mary Johnston

  • Along the brow of this hill upon which we are standing was an earthwork.

    IT and Other Stories

    Gouverneur Morris

  • We concentrated our guns on him as he crouched behind this earthwork.

    The Clansman

    Thomas Dixon

British Dictionary definitions for earthwork



excavation of earth, as in engineering construction
a fortification made of earth
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 earthwork

1630s, from earth + work (n.). In this sense Old English had eorðbyrig; Old English eorðweorc meant "work on the land."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper