Definition of pothole in English:



  • 1A deep natural underground cave formed by the erosion of rock, especially by the action of water.

    • ‘A prehistoric occupation site was discovered at the bottom of a hollow some 600 sq. m. in area, resulting from the collapse of an underground pothole.’
    • ‘Some rocky and steep-sided dolines and potholes have been enlarged by progressive collapse of the limestone and retreat of their exposed rock walls.’
    • ‘During the hectic work schedule it was hoped they would visit the deepest pothole in Asia, the Ghar Parau, discovered by an English expedition in 1971 which reached 751 metres deep.’
    • ‘Back-wrenching potholes get deeper and wider.’
    • ‘Structurally dominated by a small geological fault, it is a cave that typifies the best of Yorkshire potholes: wet, deep, vertical, and culminating in one of the finest shafts in the country.’
    • ‘The Bulgarian team investigated, explored and made maps of nine caves and potholes, all of them 4km long.’
    • ‘They have just spent four weeks in the Guilin area - close to the Vietnam border - investigating local potholes with a view to identifying a potential show cave.’
    • ‘The dark hole near Pwll Fanogl, believed by some to be a massive pothole in the limestone, is nearly 30m deep.’
    • ‘Bats spend the summer living in trees and buildings, and retreat to caves and potholes in winter, to hibernate.’
    • ‘The second feature is a deep cave or pothole on Wet Rain Hill, just above Liz's Burn, called Bell Hollow.’
    • ‘Certainly there are potholes in the lake which mean it is 100 ft deep in places, so there is always winter-cold water below the surface, however hot the day.’
    • ‘He named the Channeled Scablands, with its catastrophically water-carved coulees, dry waterfalls, potholes and huge erratic boulders.’
    cave, cavern, cavity, hollow, recess, alcove
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A deep circular hole in a riverbed formed by the erosion of the rock by the rotation of stones in an eddy.
      • ‘Small potholes may hold water long enough for crabs to molt, but not to undergo larval development.’
      • ‘They inhabit swift streams, the backwaters of large rivers, brackish lagoons, and potholes.’
      • ‘Some environmental activists yesterday inspect the Nuanjiang section of the Keelung River, where geologically unique potholes are to be found.’
      • ‘Balanced on a log suspended over a glacial pothole, she is searching the foot-deep water for endangered howellia and their delicate white florets no bigger than her baby finger.’
    2. 1.2North American A pond formed by a natural hollow in the ground in which water has collected.
      ‘upstream were potholes from the recent rains where a pair of herons stood’
      • ‘The refuge's north unit contains the 8,700-acre Medicine Lake, eight smaller lakes, and numerous pothole wetlands.’
      • ‘The rolling hills of northern Wisconsin's glacial kettle moraine are densely forested with hardwoods, birch and aspen and pitted with potholes and lakes.’
      • ‘In the prairie pothole region of the United States, blackbirds damage ripening sunflower crops.’
      • ‘The sedge meadow community graded into bluejoint-muhly grass wet prairie along its drier boundaries and prairie pothole marsh where water was deeper.’
      • ‘The valley is wet, the high benches are pocked with pothole lakes, springs, and ponds, and mastodons browse along a braided watercourse snaking across the bottomland at the foot of the cliff.’
      • ‘Prairie potholes are natural depressions that can be a fifth of an acre up to 500 acres in size.’
      • ‘Waterfowl were available in the larger river valleys, and they are common at prairie potholes.’
  • 2A depression or hollow in a road surface caused by wear or subsidence.

    ‘he drove very cautiously over the potholes in the road’
    • ‘The approach roads are full of potholes and the main road leading to Hoshiarpur is in a bad shape.’
    • ‘Tar is soluble in fossil fuels like diesel and petrol and oil spill loosens the road surface and potholes begin to form.’
    • ‘The plan may also establish a target of repairing potholes in roads of this type within a fortnight of the council becoming aware of the problem.’
    • ‘I settled back into my seat as much as I could as we rolled over the various rocks, potholes, and ruts in the road.’
    • ‘New white lines will be painted, potholes repaired and underground gulleys will be cleared to improve drainage.’
    • ‘The entire road is a pothole - a red-earth track with occasional rafts of Tarmac which drivers avoid at all costs for fear of wrecking their suspension.’
    • ‘The highway developed large potholes and irregular bumps and hollows.’
    • ‘Our roads are full of potholes and irregular surfacing.’
    • ‘Pavements cracked, potholes grew, water and service charges were imposed and the row over the funding of local authorities has raged ever since.’
    • ‘The roads have large potholes, road calming humps, roundabouts and other obstacles.’
    • ‘The front right wheel clattered through a deep pothole filled with dark rain water which splashed up, showering the front of the van.’
    • ‘We had to pass several stretches of road that had deep potholes filled with murky water and big stones.’
    • ‘The regular replacement of cracked paving stones and filling-in of potholes is one of the things your council tax buys you.’
    • ‘The road wears the usual spring potholes, but the new (very expensive) upper road is holding up well.’
    • ‘He said the council had put stones into the potholes a few weeks ago and they had already been washed away by the rains.’
    • ‘Pedestrians aren't exactly better off, for they are the ones who get splashed with muddy water every time a vehicle lurches into a pothole.’
    • ‘Huge potholes mar the surface, only half the road per se is motorable, there is no system of demarcated drains and the entire stretch is one filthy mess.’
    • ‘Drivers were left stranded, surrounded by water, while other cars became stuck in potholes caused by the heavy rain.’
    • ‘The 4x4 can much more easily deal with his potholes and appalling road surfaces.’
    • ‘He said that after an assessment has been made, some potholes were usually repaired within 24 hours, but deeper holes could take two or three days or sometimes up to a week.’
    wheel track, furrow, groove, track, trough, ditch, trench, gutter, gouge, crack, hollow, hole, pothole, cavity, crater
    View synonyms


[NO OBJECT]British
  • Explore underground potholes as a pastime.

    ‘they went potholing in the Pennines’
    • ‘The experienced caver and climber died a few hours later while potholing, plunging 70 feet to her death.’
    • ‘And last night, a member of the same potholing club said the so-called crisis had not presented the cavers with anything they would not have been prepared for.’
    • ‘Try some extreme sports - skydiving, rock climbing, potholing, ballooning, motor racing the list is endless.’
    • ‘The kids were packed off to the campsite and spent the day rock climbing, clay shooting, potholing, go-karting.’
    • ‘Teams must navigate the course with map and compass and cover it through a prescribed combination of kayaking, mountain biking, trekking, climbing, horse riding and potholing.’
    • ‘We hiked, swam, climbed, potholed, abseiled, ran, jumped, fell in, fell over and camped on most of Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland during my time with the association.’
    • ‘After a date with a woman who enjoyed potholing and had a moustache, and one other appalling mismatch, I never used them again.’
    • ‘The alarm was raised by the man's potholing colleague shortly after 3pm when the pair became separated at Diccan Pot in Ribblesdale.’
    • ‘La Cueva del Gato is a popular site with the European potholing community.’
    • ‘Of course you always get one like him, the guy who'd done the caves the hard way by potholing, umpteen years ago, and wanted to let everyone know.’
    • ‘I was very impressed with this Yorkshire potholing, but my ladder climbing was abysmal and it took me more than half an hour to be dragged up the 91m daylight pitch of Long Kin West.’
    • ‘The sign points out the dangers of approaching too close to Bell Hollow, and strongly advises against using the cave for potholing explorations.’


Early 19th century: from Middle English pot ‘pit’ (perhaps of Scandinavian origin) + hole.