Definition of cave in English:



  • A large underground chamber, typically of natural origin, in a hillside or cliff.

    • ‘Karim, dive instructor and owner of Deep South Diving, leads me through a series of caves at the back of the reef.’
    • ‘The numerous caves and grottoes were long occupied by Palaeolithic peoples.’
    • ‘Local monks have also taken advantages of the natural caves and have made them part of their temples.’
    • ‘This produces stalactites and related deposits in underground caves.’
    • ‘If we all lived underground in caves there would be fewer skin cancers, and if we all moved to Brisbane there would be more.’
    • ‘It opens with an old woman relating a mythical tale of people trapped in an underground cave.’
    • ‘The growth rate of stalactites and stalagmites in many caves today is of course quite slow.’
    • ‘Bats spend the summer living in trees and buildings, and retreat to caves and potholes in winter, to hibernate.’
    • ‘Other parts of Rainbow River are better known for caves and grottos.’
    • ‘The reef face is pockmarked by some fairly deep caves where only qualified cave divers should venture.’
    • ‘Plato was not describing a real place any more than his allegory of the cave describes a real cave.’
    • ‘The coastline is varied, dramatic and rugged, cut with caves, gullies, canyons and sheer cliffs.’
    • ‘The cavern is a natural cave carved into the rock by the sea, and widened into an underground canal by human hands.’
    • ‘The cave has two main chambers, with a series of galleries and chambers leading off them.’
    • ‘Steven Birch and a small team of archaeologists are excavating a remarkable cave on the Isle of Skye.’
    • ‘The rock's many natural caves have been added to over the years by a series of remarkable tunnels.’
    • ‘The Himalayan cave houses an icy stalagmite worshipped as an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva.’
    • ‘Many faults have karst features developed along them, with strings of caves visible along the faults.’
    • ‘Entry to the caves was through a passage which led to a large chamber filled with water.’
    • ‘To the north lies Durness with the spectacular Smoo Cave, a limestone cave with a hole in the roof.’
    cavern, grotto, hollow, cavity, pothole, underground chamber, gallery, tunnel, dugout
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  • 1Explore caves as a sport.

    • ‘Most of the Polish cavers we caved with were hard.’
    • ‘Back when I was living out of a backpack I went caving in Budapest.’
    • ‘I found the way out quite a struggle; having not caved for 2 months I was a little out of practice.’
    • ‘Howard, Martin, Sweeny and Snablet caved back through Hang Ho into Pitch Cave to follow a lead there.’
  • 2US Capitulate or submit under pressure; cave in.

    ‘he caved because his position had become untenable’
    ‘she finally caved in the face of his persistence’
    collapse, fall in, give, give way, crumble, crumple, disintegrate, subside, fall down, sag, slump
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Phrasal Verbs

  • cave in

    • 1(of a roof or similar structure) subside or collapse.

      ‘the tunnel walls caved in’
      • ‘The road has caved into the drains at several points.’
      • ‘Her bathroom ceiling caved in last week after she had waited more than a month for repairs.’
      • ‘He was apparently writing a letter to his family and there is speculation that he may have saved the life of the boy next to him by shielding him when the roof caved in on them.’
      • ‘The roof caved in and the windscreen was smashed.’
      • ‘Mr Grove's housemate said he heard glass smashing and saw flames leaping up the stairs of the house before the ceiling caved in.’
      • ‘The roof had caved in and trees were growing through the gaping hole.’
      • ‘Now a corner, now a brick, the structure is caving in upon itself.’
      • ‘Police wearing breathing masks manned posts to divert traffic away from the industrial estate where workers were evacuated from the blazing warehouse just as the roof was caving in.’
      • ‘The roof is caving in, and bats have taken over the empty structure.’
      • ‘As many as 30 miners were trapped underground on Tuesday after a tunnel caved in at the mine.’
      • ‘More than 500 people were believed to be in the 110,000 sq ft exhibition hall when the roof caved in.’
      • ‘A five-storey building under construction caved in on Saturday at the seaside town of Canacona, trapping workers on the site.’
      • ‘Then the roof started caving in at that end of the station, everything seemed to happen in slow motion.’
      • ‘A fire broke out after the tunnel caved in on Sunday, and a number of survivors fled to safety on foot.’
      • ‘The couple's hardwood floor was destroyed but that was not the end of their troubles, as the roof then began to cave in.’
      • ‘The roof caved in during the fire at the Chalkwell Park Rooms, a popular function suite on the edge of Chalkwell Park, Westcliff.’
      • ‘In one tiny schoolhouse the roof caved in after a heavy rain and prickly pear quickly began to take root inside.’
      • ‘Doors were rotting, roofs of buildings were caving in, streets were littered with rusting machine-like objects.’
      • ‘She felt as if at any moment the roof would cave in on her and bury her alive.’
      • ‘We don't like to think about it, but what if you lose your job or the roof of your house caves in?’
      collapse, fall in, give, give way, crumble, crumple, disintegrate, subside, fall down, sag, slump
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      1. 1.1Capitulate or submit under pressure.
        ‘the manager caved in to his demands’
        • ‘After rolling my eyes many many times this week, I eventually caved in.’
        • ‘Critics have also slammed the government for caving in to the demands of the mining industry and leaving loopholes "large enough for mining trucks to drive through".’
        • ‘So instead, the government caved in to their pressure.’
        • ‘Ministers have caved in to pressure from the farming industry over one of the most controversial proposals to prevent a repeat of last year's epidemic.’
        • ‘The top players will continue to demand more money and eventually the league will cave in to the pressure from the big clubs.’
        • ‘She said the bus driver should never have let them get on if there was not enough room, and had caved in to pressure from other passengers.’
        • ‘My parents finally caved in and got me a landline phone in my room for my 14th birthday.’
        • ‘A number of the country's biggest publishers say the strategy amounts to blackmail and are refusing to cave in.’
        • ‘She won't cave in to his demands that she admit the marriage was fraudulent.’
        • ‘Already the Danish government, which had announced plans to scale down ferry operations when the bridge opened, has caved in to public pressure to maintain the service.’
        • ‘Numerous stations immediately caved in to the pressure.’
        • ‘Other times he caved in to pressure, either from industry or pro-censorship forces.’
        yield, surrender, submit, succumb, back down, make concessions, capitulate, give in, give up, raise the white flag, show the white flag
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  • cave something in

    • Cause to collapse.

      ‘storms caved the roof in’
      ‘the car smashed into the front door and almost caved in the porch’
      • ‘One man had his skull caved in.’
      • ‘Your homeowner's policy will cover you if a tree blows down and caves the roof in.’
      • ‘A crane had run into the back of her car, crushing the roof and boot and caving in the rear windscreen.’
      • ‘Half of the three-story building was heavily damaged by the fire, which caved in the roof.’
      • ‘Rodger also struck two bicyclists with his car, the second of whom caved in the car's windshield.’
      • ‘Problems apparently arose in February, when a heavy snowfall caved in the roof.’
      • ‘It took the fire service 30 minutes to contain and extinguish the fire, which had caved the roof in and destroyed a car.’
      • ‘After the quake shook the house, knocking it off its foundation and caving in the porch they loved, they said they don't know if they can afford to stay.’


Middle English: from Old French, from Latin cava, from cavus hollow (compare with cavern). The usage cave in may be from the synonymous dialect expression calve in, influenced by obsolete cave excavate, hollow out.