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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Loess \Loess\ (l[~e]e), n. [G. l["o]ss.] (Geol.) A quaternary deposit, usually consisting of a fine yellowish earth, on the banks of the Rhine and other large rivers.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1833 (in Lyell), "unstratified deposit of loam," coined 1823 by German mineralogist Karl Cäsar von Leonhard (1779-1862) from German Löss "yellowish-gray soil," from Swiss German lösch (adj.) "loose" (compare German los; see loose). Related: Loessial.


n. (context geology English) Any sediment, dominated by silt, of eolian (wind-blown) origin.


n. a fine-grained unstratified accumulation of clay and silt deposited by the wind


Loess (, , , or ; from German Löss ) is a clastic, predominantly silt-sized sediment that is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust. It covers about 10% of the Earth's surface.

Loess is an aeolian sediment formed by the accumulation of wind-blown silt, typically in the 20–50 micrometer size range, twenty percent or less clay and the balance equal parts sand and silt that are loosely cemented by calcium carbonate. It is usually homogeneous and highly porous and is traversed by vertical capillaries that permit the sediment to fracture and form vertical bluffs.

The word loess, with connotations of origin by wind-deposited accumulation, came into English from GermanLöss , which can be traced back to Swiss German and is cognate with the English word loose and the German word los. It was first applied to Rhine River valley loess about 1821.

Usage examples of "loess".

The peasants belonged to the great loess plain, which formed the central southern part of the tropical continent of Campannlat.

Even in times of drought like the present, the loess had to be worked by those whose destiny it was to make crops grow from dirt.

CaraBansity knew as much about the stars as about the intestines, and his house - itself shaped rather like an intestine - extended far into the loess, with entrances to chambers devoted to all his interests on several lanes.

This oppressive place, designed in the Pannovalan fashion, was carved from the clay which lay beneath the loess, and lined with lead to waist level, with stone above.

The march from Gravabagalinien had taken the best part of a tenner, first over the loess farmlands then across wild country.

She started walking down the road, over hillocks of buried rubble, around snags of wall jutting up out of the loess, past buildings still standing, some of them already breached and explored, and across the brush-grown flat to the huts.

Pearl-colored loess lay heaped against the western side of the pier in great mounds, spilling over the stone walkway and making it difficult to tell the wharf from the silty depths it traversed.

In many cases, the loess had spilled over the tops, completely filling the passenger compartments and giving the craft the distinct impression of derelicts.

Despite the ratany silt-break, several inches of pearly loess covered the walkways, and so much dust clung to the building placards that Agis could barely make out the pictures engraved on their surfaces.

The massive guard was lost from the waist down in a roiling curtain of silt, with each step sending silvery columns of loess shooting up past his head.

It was turgid, the color of loess, lazily winding its way to the gulf.

Beyond, all the way to the sheer walls of the immense northern glacier, lay the arid loess steppes, an environment that existed only when glaciers were on the land, during the Ice Age.

The airborne particles were sifted to a texture only slightly coarser than clay -- loess -- and deposited over hundreds of miles to depths of many feet, and became soil.

The seasonal streams end rivers fed by glacial melt cut through the deep loess, and often through the sedimentary rock to the crystalline granite platform underlying the continent.

At that moment, in a lonely valley in the middle of a vast continent, somewhere near the undefined boundary of the desolate northern loess steppes and the wetter continental steppes to the south, a young woman stood with a bone club in her hand -- and felt powerful.