Excavation is the act or process of digging, especially when something specific is being removed from the ground. Archaeologists use excavation to find artifacts and fossils.

There are many types of excavation, but they all involve digging holes in the earth. Mining for coal, gold, or diamonds all require excavation, and before buildings and houses can be built, there is often some excavation that's done before a foundation can be poured. The Latin source of excavation is excavationem, "a hollowing out," from excavare, "to hollow out," with its roots of ex-, "out," and cavare, "to hollow."

Definitions of excavation
  1. noun
    the act of digging
    “there's an interesting excavation going on near Princeton”
    synonyms: dig, digging
    see moresee less
    type of:
    creating by removal
    the act of creating by removing something
  2. noun
    a hole in the ground made by excavating
    see moresee less
    show 35 types...
    hide 35 types...
    bore, bore-hole, drill hole
    a hole or passage made by a drill; usually made for exploratory purposes
    an excavation; usually a quarry or mine
    diggings, digs
    an excavation for ore or precious stones or for archaeology
    a long narrow excavation in the earth
    excavation in the earth from which ores and minerals are extracted
    excavation consisting of a vertical or sloping passageway for finding or mining ore or for ventilating a mine
    pit, quarry, stone pit
    a surface excavation for extracting stone or slate
    an excavation that is (usually) filled with water
    cellar, root cellar
    an excavation where root vegetables are stored
    a deep hole or shaft dug or drilled to obtain water or oil or gas or brine
    working, workings
    a mine or quarry that is being or has been worked
    artesian well
    a well drilled through impermeable strata into strata that receive water from a higher altitude so there is pressure to force the water to flow upward
    chalk pit, chalkpit
    a quarry for chalk
    an artificial reservoir for storing liquids; especially an underground tank for storing rainwater
    coal mine, coalpit
    a mine where coal is dug from the ground
    copper mine
    a mine where copper is dug from the ground
    drainage ditch
    a ditch for carrying off excess water or sewage
    driven well, tube well
    a well made by driving a tube into the earth to a stratum that bears water
    gas well
    a well that yields or has yielded natural gas
    gold mine, goldmine
    a mine where gold ore is found
    gravel pit
    a quarry for gravel
    irrigation ditch
    a ditch to supply dry land with water artificially
    oil well, oiler
    a well that yields or has yielded oil
    salt mine
    a mine where salt is dug
    shot hole
    drill hole for a charge of an explosive
    silver mine
    a mine where silver ore is dug
    strip mine
    an open mine (usually for coal) where the seams run close to the surface
    sulfur mine, sulphur mine
    a mine where sulphur is dug from the ground
    a well or other hole in which water has collected
    ha-ha, haw-haw, sunk fence
    a ditch with one side being a retaining wall; used to divide lands without defacing the landscape
    natatorium, swimming bath, swimming pool
    pool that provides a facility for swimming
    a ditch dug as a fortification having a parapet of the excavated earth
    any long ditch cut in the ground
    wading pool
    a shallow pool for children
    water jump
    a pool or stream in a steeplechase or similar contest
    type of:
    artefact, artifact
    a man-made object taken as a whole
  3. noun
    the act of extracting ores or coal etc from the earth
    synonyms: mining
    see moresee less
    placer mining
    mining valuable minerals from a placer by washing or dredging
    opencast mining, strip mining
    the mining of ore or coal from an open mine
    type of:
    (economics) manufacturing or mining or growing something (usually in large quantities) for sale
  4. noun
    the site of an archeological exploration
    synonyms: archeological site, dig
    see moresee less
    an ancient Mediterranean seaport that was a thriving city state in Phoenicia during the second millennium BC; was the chief port for the export of papyrus; located in Lebanon to the north of Beirut; now partially excavated
    type of:
    land site, site
    the piece of land on which something is located (or is to be located)
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week