The entire unconsolidated or secondarily recemented cover that overlies more coherent bedrock, that has been formed by weathering, erosion, transport and/or deposition of the older material. The regolith thus includes fractured and weathered basement rocks, saprolites, soils, organic accumulations, volcanic material, glacial deposits, colluvium, alluvium, evaporitic sediments, aeolian deposits and ground water. Everything from fresh rock to fresh air.
Merrill, G. P. (1897) A treatise on rocks, rock weathering and soils. New York, Macmillan. 411 pp.
The term was introduced by Merrill (1897) who wrote of the incoherent mass of varying thickness covering the underlying rocks: “In places this covering is made up of material originating through rock weathering in-situ. In other instances it is of fragmental and more or less decomposed material drifted by wind, water or ice from other sources. This entire mantle of unconsolidated material, whatever its nature or origin, it is proposed to call the regolith, from the Greek words rhego), meaning a blanket, and lithos, a stone.”