ex·​ca·​vate | \ˈek-skə-ˌvāt \
excavated; excavating

Definition of excavate 

transitive verb

1 : to form a cavity or hole in

2 : to form by hollowing out

3 : to dig out and remove

4 : to expose to view by or as if by digging away a covering excavate the remains of a temple

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Synonyms for excavate


dig, shovel

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Examples of excavate in a Sentence

They excavated an ancient city. It is the first site to be excavated in this area. They began excavating the backyard for their new pool. The excess dirt was carefully excavated.
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Recent Examples on the Web

In 2016, archaeologist Melissa Cradic of the University of California, Berkeley, and her colleagues excavated a 3,000- to 4,000-year-old tomb near the palace. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Israeli tomb contains a tasty surprise: Vanilla extract," 20 Nov. 2018 In 2016, a DPAA Recovery Team excavated the site and recovered additional remains, the agency said. Emily Sweeney, BostonGlobe.com, "New Hampshire airman who died on World War II bombing mission will be laid to rest," 18 June 2018 By the end of the expedition, with the assistance of the drone scientists, the group will uncover as many as 250 new significant fossil locations and excavate hundreds of bones. Jason Harper, Condé Nast Traveler, "On the Hunt for Dinosaur Bones in the Gobi Desert," 20 July 2018 Lately, a wave of stylishly sullen young artists, many in rap, has excavated the painfully unhip, angsty subcultures of the 1990s and 2000s. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "What Linkin Park Gave to Pop Music," 25 June 2018 The latest find, announced at a press conference Saturday, belongs to the Saite-Persian Period, from 664-404 B.C. The site, which lies south of Unas pyramid, was last excavated more than 100 years ago, in 1900. Fox News, "Archaeologists in Egypt discover ancient mummification workshop," 2 Oct. 2018 Among the few exceptions is Zlatko Ugljen’s Serefudin White Mosque (1980), which exhibits a northern European skill with toplight and an unusual asymmetrical interior that looks as if it has been excavated, like a cave. Alexandra Lange, Curbed, "Concrete utopia," 12 July 2018 Can canines smell the difference between pottery pieces that have sat in a museum for years and those that are recently excavated—and thus more likely to have been looted from an archaeological site? Christine Speer Lejeune, Smithsonian, "Dogs May Soon Be on the Front Lines in the Fight Against Artifact Smuggling," 20 Mar. 2018 Austin will continue to excavate itself from the horror of 2015, one day at a time, seeking a lush, green path to tomorrow. Gregg Doyel, Indianapolis Star, "Doyel: Austin hopes a new ballfield can help in its battle with opioids and HIV," 21 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'excavate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of excavate

1599, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for excavate

borrowed from Latin excavātus, past participle of excavāre "to hollow out, form a hole in," from ex- ex- entry 1 + cavāre "to make hollow, hollow out," verbal derivative of cavus "hollow, concave" — more at hole entry 1

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Statistics for excavate

Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for excavate

The first known use of excavate was in 1599

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More Definitions for excavate



English Language Learners Definition of excavate

: to uncover (something) by digging away and removing the earth that covers it

: to dig a large hole in (something)

: to form (a hole, tunnel, etc.) by digging


ex·​ca·​vate | \ˈek-skə-ˌvāt \
excavated; excavating

Kids Definition of excavate

1 : to expose to view by digging away a covering They've excavated an ancient city.

2 : to hollow out : form a hole in Workers excavated the side of a hill.

3 : to make by hollowing out We must excavate a tunnel.

4 : to dig out and remove Miners excavate diamonds.


ex·​ca·​vate | \ˈek-skə-ˌvāt \
excavated; excavating

Medical Definition of excavate 

transitive verb

: to form a cavity or hole in an excavated wisdom tooth

intransitive verb

: to make excavations or become hollowed out an area of infarction in soft tissue often tends to excavate

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More from Merriam-Webster on excavate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with excavate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for excavate

Spanish Central: Translation of excavate

Nglish: Translation of excavate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of excavate for Arabic Speakers

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