Meanings: “Dirt” vs. “Soil”

September 19, 2012

At a land trust meeting last night, I noticed some people were taking care in the use of the words “dirt” and “soil.” I would have used them interchangeably, but they clearly were not.  CountryMax explains:

A look at shows the difference, too.  “Dirt” has the nastier origin:

dirt Look up dirt at
15c. metathesis of M.E. drit, drytt “mud, dirt, dung” (c.1300), from O.N. drit, cognate with O.E. dritan “to void excrement,” from P.Gmc. *dritanan (cf. Du. drijten, O.H.G. trizan). Used abusively of persons from c.1300. Meaning “gossip” first attested 1926 (in Hemingway); dirt bike is 1960s. Dirt-cheap is from 1821. Dirt road attested by 1852.
soil (n.) Look up soil at
“the earth or ground,” c.1300, from Anglo-Fr. soil “piece of ground, place” (13c.), from L. solium “seat,” meaning confused with that of L. solum “soil, ground.” Meaning “mould, earth, dirt” (especially that which plants grow in) is attested from mid-15c.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s