Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Engineering Geology

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series pp 1-4

Date: Latest Version

Atterberg Limits

  • Abdul ShakoorAffiliated withDepartment of Geology, Kent State University Email author 


Liquid limit; Plastic limit; Plasticity characteristics; Plasticity index


Atterberg limits are water contents at which marked changes occur in the engineering behavior of fine-grained soils. Fine-grained soils, consisting of particles smaller than 0.074 mm (#200 sieve), include silts and clays. Water content is the ratio of the weight of water to the weight of solids in a soil mass, expressed as a percentage.


Atterberg limits were developed by Albert Atterberg, a Swedish soil scientist (1911). Based on the behavior of fine-grained soils with changing water content, Atterberg defined seven limits (Holtz et al. 2011). Casagrande (1932) standardized Atterberg limits for engineering classification of fine-grained soils. The Atterberg limits used in engineering practice include liquid limit (LL), plastic limit (PL), and, less frequently, shrinkage limit (SL). Liquid limit is the lowest water content at which a s ...

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