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[hyoo-muh s or, often, yoo-] /ˈhyu məs or, often, ˈyu-/
the dark organic material in soils, produced by the decomposition of vegetable or animal matter and essential to the fertility of the earth.
Origin of humus
1790-1800; < Latin: earth, ground; akin to Greek chamaí on the ground, chthṓn earth, Sanskrit kṣam-, Lithuanian žẽmė, Serbo-Croatian zèmlja ground, earth; cf. chameleon, chthonian, zemstvo; see Homo
Related forms
nonhumus, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for humus
  • These bacteria also generate humus that can be used for turf or topsoil.
  • The vegan crostini-grilled bread with olive oil, humus and roasted vegetables antipasti-was hearty but not heavy.
  • Given the right mix of these components, decomposing organisms rapidly break down organic matter and produce rich humus.
  • Most of these are in the humus and the upper inches of topsoil.
  • humus and minerals are needed by plants for good growth.
  • The end product is a contaminant-free humus that can enhance landscaping and horticulture applications.
  • The nest sites are composed of leaf litter, debris, and humus.
  • The humus content gives it a darker color than the horizon below.
British Dictionary definitions for humus


a dark brown or black colloidal mass of partially decomposed organic matter in the soil. It improves the fertility and water retention of the soil and is therefore important for plant growth
Word Origin
C18: from Latin: soil, earth
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for humus

1796, from Latin humus "earth, soil," probably from humi "on the ground," from PIE *dhghem- "earth" (cf. Latin humilis "low;" see chthonic). Related: Humous (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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humus in Science
A dark-brown or black organic substance made up of decayed plant or animal matter. Humus provides nutrients for plants and increases the ability of soil to retain water.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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