a. A part of humans regarded as immaterial, immortal, separable from the body at death, capable of moral judgment, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state.
b. This part of a human when disembodied after death.
2. In Aristotelian philosophy, an animating or vital principle inherent in living things and endowing them in various degrees with the potential to grow and reproduce, to move and respond to stimuli (as in the case of animals), and to think rationally (as in the case of humans).
a. A human: “the homes of some nine hundred souls” (Garrison Keillor).
b. A person considered as the embodiment of an intangible quality; a personification: I am the very soul of discretion.
c. A person's emotional or moral nature: “An actor is ... often a soul which wishes to reveal itself to the world but dare not” (Alec Guinness).
4. The central or integral part; the vital core: “It saddens me that this network ... may lose its soul, which is after all the quest for news” (Marvin Kalb).
5. A sense of emotional strength or spiritual vitality held to derive from black and especially African American cultural experience, expressed in areas such as language, social customs, religion, and music.
6. Strong, deeply felt emotion conveyed by a speaker, performer, or artist: a performance that had a lot of soul.
7. Soul music.
[Middle English, from Old English sāwol.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.