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So, what exactly is soil? Soil can be defined as the organic and inorganic materials on the surface of the earth that provide the medium for plant growth. Soil develops slowly over time and is composed of many different materials. Inorganic materials, or those materials that are not living, include weathered rocks and minerals. Weathering is the mechanical or chemical process by which rocks are broken down into smaller pieces. As rocks are broken down, they mix with organic materials, which are those materials that originate from living organisms. For example, plants and animals die and decompose, releasing nutrients back into the soil.

"filth, dirt, refuse matter, sewage, liquid likely to contain excrement," , earlier "miry or muddy place" (early 15c.), from Old French soille "miry place," from soillier (v.) "to make dirty," and in part a native formation from soil (v.). This is the sense in archaic night-soil .

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