ex·​ca·​vate | \ ˈek-skə-ˌvāt How to pronounce excavate (audio) \
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

Presidio archaeologists are working on a long-term research project to excavate El Presidio de San Francisco, the Spanish-colonial site buried just below the ground in front of the Presidio Officers’ Club. SFChronicle.com, "Kids listings," 12 July 2018 The country only recently began allowing foreign scientists to excavate its ancient sites. National Geographic, "85,000-Year-Old Footprints Show Stepping Stone in Human Migration," 14 May 2018 Now Castanzo and Klugh have joined forces to excavate its lost history. Christina Tkacik, baltimoresun.com, "Rediscovering the African-American graveyard beneath a Baltimore shopping center," 20 Mar. 2018 Parts of the pyramid have since been excavated, notably, these tunnels discovered in 1931. Susannah Rigg, Condé Nast Traveler, "5 Best Day Trips from Mexico City," 13 Mar. 2018 To give a sense of Stonehenge's history, these bodies were originally excavated back in 1920s. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The People Who Built Stonehenge Came From Wales," 3 Aug. 2018 On Andante Travels’ 8-day Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Classical Campania tour, you’ll be led by guides and lecturers who have helped excavate the sites and can discuss the latest archeological discoveries. Kari Bodnarchuk, BostonGlobe.com, "Here, there, and everywhere," 6 June 2018 The most significant find so far has been the cornerstone etched with a date of 1900 that was discovered after excavating beneath the old floor. Susan Demar Lafferty, Daily Southtown, "Moving crews unearth past life of New Lenox depot," 5 June 2018 Though severely weakened, Islamic State continues to wage an insurgency from remote hide-outs in Iraq, complicating efforts to reach and excavate some graves. Isabel Coles, WSJ, "Syria Unearths ISIS Mass Graves Near Iraqi Border," 13 Dec. 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

23 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for excavate

The first known use of excavate was in 1599

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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 How to pronounce excavate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce excavate (audio) \
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

Comments on excavate

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a flaw that causes the downfall of a hero

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