From Middle English soile, soyle, sule (“ground, earth”), partly from Anglo-Norman soyl (“bottom, ground, pavement”), from Latin solium (“seat, threshold, place”), mistaken for Latin solum (“ground, foundation, earth, sole of the foot”); and partly from Old English sol (“mud, mire, wet sand”), from Proto-Germanic *sulą (“mud, spot”), from Proto-Indo-European *sūl- (“thick liquid”). Cognate with Middle Low German söle (“dirt, mud”), Middle Dutch sol (“dirt, filth”), Middle High German sol, söl (“dirt, mud, mire”), Danish søle (“mud, muck”). See also sole, soal.
- (uncountable) A mixture of sand and organic material, used to support plant growth.
- (uncountable) The unconsolidated mineral or organic material on the immediate surface of the earth that serves as a natural medium for the growth of land plants.
- (uncountable) The unconsolidated mineral or organic matter on the surface of the earth that has been subjected to and shows effects of genetic and environmental factors of: climate (including water and temperature effects), and macro- and microorganisms, conditioned by relief, acting on parent material over a period of time. A product-soil differs from the material from which it is derived in many physical, chemical, biological, and morphological properties and characteristics.
- Country or territory.
- The refugees returned to their native soil.
- Kenyan soil
- That which soils or pollutes; a stain.
- 1690, John Dryden, Don Sebastian, King of Portugal: A Tragedy Acted at the Theatre Royal, London: Jo. Hindmarſh, Act V, page 118:
- And ſince not only a dead Fathers fame, / But more a Ladies honour muſt be touch’d, / Which nice as Ermines will not bear a Soil ; / Let all retire ; that you alone may hear / What ev’n in whiſpers I won’d tell your ear.
- A marshy or miry place to which a hunted boar resorts for refuge; hence, a wet place, stream, or tract of water, sought for by other game, as deer.
- Dung; compost; manure.
- night soil
- 1707, J[ohn] Mortimer, “Of Manuring, Dunging, and Soiling of Land”, in The Whole Art of Husbandry; Or, The Way of Managing and Improving of Land, 2nd edition, London: J. H. for H. Mortlock, and J. Robinſon, published 1708, page 66:
- HAving given you an Account of the way of ordering of Meadows, Paſtures and Arable Land, with ſeveral Sorts of Improvement of them ; I ſhall in the next place proceed to give an Account of the ſeveral ways uſed to improve Land by Manure, Dung, and other Sort of Soils.
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From Middle English soilen, soulen, suylen (“to sully, make dirty”), partly from Old French soillier, souillier (“to soil, make dirty, wallow in mire”), from Old Frankish *sauljan, *sulljan (“to make dirty, soil”); partly from Old English solian, sylian (“to soil, make dirty”), from Proto-Germanic *sulwōną, *sulwijaną, *saulijaną (“to soil, make dirty”), from Proto-Indo-European *sūl- (“thick liquid”). Cognate with Old Saxon sulian (“to soil, mire”), Middle Dutch soluwen, seulewen (“to soil, besmirch”), Old High German solagōn, bisullen (“to make dirty”), German dialectal sühlen (“to soil, make dirty”), Danish søle (“to make dirty, defile”), Swedish söla (“to soil, make dirty”), Gothic 𐌱𐌹𐍃𐌰𐌿𐌻𐌾𐌰𐌽 (bisauljan, “to bemire”).
- (transitive) To make dirty.
- 1667, John Milton, “Book VIII”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker […] [a]nd by Robert Boulter […] [a]nd Matthias Walker, […], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, OCLC 230729554:, lines 1073–1080:
- […] Bad Fruit of Knowledge, if this be to know, / Which leaves us naked thus, of Honour void, / Of innocence, of Faith, of Puritie, / Our wonted Ornaments now ſoild and ſtaind, / And in our Faces evident the ſignes / Of foul concupiſcence ; whence eveil ſtore ; / Even ſhame, the laſt of evils ; of the firſt / Be ſure then.
- (intransitive) To become dirty or soiled.
- Light colours soil sooner than dark ones.
- (transitive, figuratively) To stain or mar, as with infamy or disgrace; to tarnish; to sully.
- c. 1599–1602, William Shakespeare, The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke: […] (Second Quarto), London: Printed by I[ames] R[oberts] for N[icholas] L[ing] […], published 1604, OCLC 760858814, [Act I, scene iv]:
- (reflexive) To dirty one's clothing by accidentally defecating while clothed.
- To make invalid, to ruin.
- To enrich with soil or muck; to manure.
- 1676 April 30, Robert South, “A Sermon Preached at Westminster Abbey”, in Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, volume I, New York: Hurd and Houghton, published 1866, page 176:
- For to be kind to the former is traffic ; and in these times men present, just as they soil their ground, not that they love the dirt, but that they expect a crop : and for the latter, the politician well approves of the Indian’s religion, in worshiping the devil, that he may do him no hurt ; how much soever he hates him, and is hated by him.
soil (plural soils)
- (uncountable, euphemistic) Faeces or urine etc. when found on clothes.
- (countable, medicine) A bag containing soiled items.
- (faeces or urine etc.): dirt
From Middle English soyl, from Old French soil, souil (“quagmire, marsh”), from Frankish *sōlja, *saulja (“mire, miry place, wallow”), from Proto-Germanic *sauljō (“mud, puddle, feces”), from Proto-Indo-European *sūl- (“thick liquid”). Cognate with Old English syle, sylu, sylen (“miry place, wallow”), Old High German sol, gisol (“miry place”), German Suhle (“a wallow, mud pit, muddy pool”).
soil (plural soils)
- A wet or marshy place in which a boar or other such game seeks refuge when hunted.
- To feed, as cattle or horses, in the barn or an enclosure, with fresh grass or green food cut for them, instead of sending them out to pasture; hence (such food having the effect of purging them), to purge by feeding on green food.
- to soil a horse
Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for soil in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)