Definition of excavate in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɛkskəveɪt/


[with object]
1Make (a hole or channel) by digging: the cheapest way of doing this was to excavate a long trench
More example sentences
  • There were no tools found in the churchyard so it is not yet clear how the hole was excavated and officers are not aware of any history of vandalism at St Martin's.
  • We excavate a hole, put our tent inside it, and start winter camping for a few days.
  • At least two of them have developed blades that allow you to use a tooth bucket for more than excavating a hole or digging a trench.
dig, dig out, hollow out, scoop out, gouge, cut out, bore, burrow, tunnel, sink;
quarry, mine
1.1Dig out material from (the ground): the ground was largely excavated by hand
More example sentences
  • That ground was largely excavated down to bed - rock to provide adequate support for the pillars that support this upper deck.
  • However, earlier this week Bloor put up temporary buildings on the site, started excavating the ground and moved building materials in.
  • They've excavated the grounds for the new hospital, which should be open in about three years.
1.2Extract (material) from the ground by digging: a large amount of gravel would be excavated to form the channel
More example sentences
  • Wheel loaders offer the best bet for contractors who need to excavate rock, minerals, and soil or to load and carry materials.
  • James inefectually tried to excavate a droplet of water from his ear.
  • They've also had problems with Intergen (the firm that wants to excavate underground gas caverns near Aldbrough).
2Remove earth carefully from (an area) in order to find buried remains: the site was excavated in 1975
More example sentences
  • The team have also been excavating areas of the site that could not be saved from the sea and, in the course of their excavations, came across three burials lying next to the Priory church.
  • Lynn will receive training so she can excavate sites, remove fossils and artifacts, and carefully map the finds.
  • In this year an amateur archaeologist carefully excavated the original site of the house and located the chimney foundation (Robbins).
2.1Reveal or extract (buried remains) while excavating an area: clothing and weapons were excavated from the burial site
More example sentences
  • Archaeologists first began excavating the remains of a 1,000-year-old castle located on the site in 1936.
  • Archaeologists are excavating the remains of an important 17th century iron-smelting furnace that was almost lost forever.
  • Archaeologists excavated the remains of 23 men, women and infants from the tombs.
unearth, dig up, bring out of the ground, bring to the surface, uncover, reveal;
disinter, exhume
rare unbury


Late 16th century: from Latin excavat- 'hollowed out', from the verb excavare, from ex- 'out' + cavare 'make or become hollow' (from cavus 'hollow').

  • cave from Middle English:

    Latin cavus, ‘hollow’, is the origin of a number of English words, including cave, cavern (Late Middle English), cavity (mid 16th century), and excavate (late 16th century). Concave (Late Middle English) is from cavus preceded by con ‘with’, while convex (late 16th century) is from the Latin for ‘vaulted, arched’. In the days when more people knew Latin, there was a second English word spelled cave. This one, pronounced kah-vay, meant ‘beware!’, and was used from the mid 19th century by schoolchildren to warn their friends that a teacher was coming.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ex|ca¦vate

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