Definition of pothole in US English:



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

    • ‘Back-wrenching potholes get deeper and wider.’
    • ‘The dark hole near Pwll Fanogl, believed by some to be a massive pothole in the limestone, is nearly 30m deep.’
    • ‘The Bulgarian team investigated, explored and made maps of nine caves and potholes, all of them 4km long.’
    • ‘He named the Channeled Scablands, with its catastrophically water-carved coulees, dry waterfalls, potholes and huge erratic boulders.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Bats spend the summer living in trees and buildings, and retreat to caves and potholes in winter, to hibernate.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The second feature is a deep cave or pothole on Wet Rain Hill, just above Liz's Burn, called Bell Hollow.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    cave, cavern, cavity, hollow, recess, alcove
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    1. 1.1 A deep circular hole in a riverbed formed by the erosion of the rock by the rotation of stones in an eddy.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Some environmental activists yesterday inspect the Nuanjiang section of the Keelung River, where geologically unique potholes are to be found.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 1.2 A depression or hollow in a road surface caused by wear or subsidence.
      • ‘The highway developed large potholes and irregular bumps and hollows.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The regular replacement of cracked paving stones and filling-in of potholes is one of the things your council tax buys you.’
      • ‘The 4x4 can much more easily deal with his potholes and appalling road surfaces.’
      • ‘Our roads are full of potholes and irregular surfacing.’
      • ‘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 roads have large potholes, road calming humps, roundabouts and other obstacles.’
      • ‘Pavements cracked, potholes grew, water and service charges were imposed and the row over the funding of local authorities has raged ever since.’
      • ‘The approach roads are full of potholes and the main road leading to Hoshiarpur is in a bad shape.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We had to pass several stretches of road that had deep potholes filled with murky water and big stones.’
      • ‘The front right wheel clattered through a deep pothole filled with dark rain water which splashed up, showering the front of the van.’
      • ‘The road wears the usual spring potholes, but the new (very expensive) upper road is holding up well.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Tar is soluble in fossil fuels like diesel and petrol and oil spill loosens the road surface and potholes begin to form.’
      • ‘He said the council had put stones into the potholes a few weeks ago and they had already been washed away by the rains.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Drivers were left stranded, surrounded by water, while other cars became stuck in potholes caused by the heavy rain.’
      wheel track, furrow, groove, track, trough, ditch, trench, gutter, gouge, crack, hollow, hole, cavity, crater
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    3. 1.3North American A pond in a natural hollow in the ground.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 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.’


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