Soil is the dirt between our fingers as we garden or farm, from which all living things come and to which, as the poets never tire of reminding us, all life eventually returns. Such a big meaning for such a little word.

To soil something also means to make it dirty, or to degrade it in some way — strange given the natural purity of soil. Sometimes nations talk about their soil, meaning the geographical area over which they have governance. In England in the eighteenth and nineteenth century the euphemism "night soil" was used to describe the contents of the commodes people kept under their bed. But you probably didn't want to know that.

Definitions of soil
  1. noun
    material in the top layer of the surface of the earth in which plants can grow (especially with reference to its quality or use)
    “good agricultural soil
    synonyms: ground, land
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    deeply eroded barren land
    bottom, bottomland
    low-lying alluvial land near a river
    land in a coastal area
    cultivated land, farmland, ploughland, plowland, tillage, tilled land, tilth
    arable land that is worked by plowing and sowing and raising crops
    the surface soil that must be moved away to get at coal seams and mineral deposits
    ground that is permanently frozen
    low-lying land that has been reclaimed and is protected by dikes (especially in the Netherlands)
    land suitable for grazing livestock
    (geology) flat elevated land with poor soil and little vegetation that is scarred by dry channels of glacial origin (especially in eastern Washington)
    greensward, sod, sward, turf
    surface layer of ground containing a mat of grass and grass roots
    a low area where the land is saturated with water
    bog, peat bog
    wet spongy ground of decomposing vegetation; has poorer drainage than a swamp; soil is unfit for cultivation but can be cut and dried and used for fuel
    a piece of turf dug out of a lawn or fairway (by an animals hooves or a golf club)
    cultivated land that is not seeded for one or more growing seasons
    fen, fenland, marsh, marshland
    low-lying wet land with grassy vegetation; usually is a transition zone between land and water
    swamp, swampland
    low land that is seasonally flooded; has more woody plants than a marsh and better drainage than a bog
    type of:
    object, physical object
    a tangible and visible entity; an entity that can cast a shadow
  2. noun
    the part of the earth's surface consisting of humus and disintegrated rock
    synonyms: dirt
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    a loose and crumbling earthy deposit consisting mainly of calcite or dolomite; used as a fertilizer for soils deficient in lime
    a type of soil consisting of unconsolidated material from freshly deposited alluvium or sand
    residual clay, residual soil
    the soil that is remaining after the soluble elements have been dissolved
    surface soil, topsoil
    the layer of soil on the surface
    subsoil, undersoil
    the layer of soil between the topsoil and bedrock
    alluvial soil
    a fine-grained fertile soil deposited by water flowing over flood plains or in river beds
    bog soil
    poorly drained soils on top of peat and under marsh or swamp vegetation
    a very fine-grained soil that is plastic when moist but hard when fired
    hardened clay
    desert soil, desertic soil
    a type of soil that develops in arid climates
    caliche, hardpan
    crust or layer of hard subsoil encrusted with calcium-carbonate occurring in arid or semiarid regions
    fuller's earth
    an absorbent soil resembling clay; used in fulling (shrinking and thickening) woolen cloth and as an adsorbent
    gilgai soil
    soil in the melon holes of Australia
    gumbo, gumbo soil
    any of various fine-grained silty soils that become waxy and very sticky mud when saturated with water
    partially decomposed organic matter; the organic component of soil
    indurated clay
    hardened clay
    Indian red
    a red soil containing ferric oxide; often used as a pigment
    a red soil produced by rock decay; contains insoluble deposits of ferric and aluminum oxides
    a rich soil consisting of a mixture of sand and clay and decaying organic materials
    a fine-grained unstratified accumulation of clay and silt deposited by the wind
    mold, mould
    loose soil rich in organic matter
    clay, mud
    water-soaked soil; soft, wet earth
    a soft oily clay used as a pigment (especially a reddish brown pigment)
    podsol, podsol soil, podsolic soil, podzol, podzol soil
    a soil that develops in temperate to cold moist climates under coniferous or heath vegetation; an organic mat over a grey leached layer
    prairie soil
    a type of soil occurring under grasses in temperate climates
    a loose material consisting of grains of rock or coral
    sedimentary clay
    clay soil formed by sedimentary deposits
    mud or clay or small rocks deposited by a river or lake
    boulder clay, till
    unstratified soil deposited by a glacier; consists of sand and clay and gravel and boulders mixed together
    tundra soil
    a black mucky soil with a frozen subsoil that is characteristic of Arctic and subarctic regions
    a dark meadow soil rich in organic material; developed through poor drainage in humid grassy or sedge regions
    the clay from which adobe bricks are made
    a white clay (especially a white clay used by potters)
    china clay, china stone, kaolin, kaoline, porcelain clay, terra alba
    a fine usually white clay formed by the weathering of aluminous minerals (as feldspar); used in ceramics and as an absorbent and as a filler (e.g., in paper)
    red clay
    clay whose redness results from iron oxide
    regur, regur soil
    a rich black loam of India
    bleaching clay, bleaching earth
    an adsorbent clay that will remove coloring from oils
    mud pie
    a mass of mud that a child has molded into the shape of pie
    chernozemic soil
    a rich black loam of Russia
    pipeclay, terra alba
    fine white clay used in making tobacco pipes and pottery and in whitening leather
    an absorbent aluminum silicate clay formed from volcanic ash
    a heat-resistant clay
    Kitty Litter
    granulated clay; placed in a container where it absorbs the waste products of a cat or dog
    potter's clay, potter's earth
    clay that does not contain any iron; used in making pottery or for modeling
    material used to daub walls
    leaf mold, leaf mould, leaf soil
    soil composed mainly of decaying leaves
    mire, slop
    deep soft mud in water or slush
    type of:
    earth, ground
    the loose soft material that makes up a large part of the land surface
  3. noun
    the geographical area under the jurisdiction of a sovereign state
    “American troops were stationed on Japanese soil
    synonyms: territory
  4. noun
    the state of being covered with unclean things
    synonyms: dirt, filth, grease, grime, grunge, stain
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    type of:
    dirtiness, uncleanness
    the state of being unsanitary
  5. verb
    make soiled, filthy, or dirty
    “don't soil your clothes when you play outside!”
    synonyms: begrime, bemire, colly, dirty, grime
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    clean, make clean
    make clean by removing dirt, filth, or unwanted substances from
    clean, clean house, houseclean
    clean and tidy up the house
    be cleanable
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    make unclean
    contaminate, foul, pollute
    make impure
    stain by smearing or daubing with a dirty substance
    cover or stain with slime
    muddy, muddy up
    dirty with mud
    soil or stain with a splashed liquid
    mire, muck, muck up, mud
    soil with mud, muck, or mire
    soil with or as with crock
    blemish, spot
    mar or impair with a flaw
    infect, taint
    contaminate with a disease or microorganism
    moisten or soil
    besmirch, smirch
    smear so as to make dirty or stained
    contaminate (the environment) with waste or harmful substances
    type of:
    alter, change, modify
    cause to change; make different; cause a transformation
Word Family

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