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

Archaeologist Loren Davis, a professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis and lead author of the Science report, first excavated at Cooper's Ferry in the 1997 as part of his PhD dissertation. Megan Gannon, National Geographic, "15,000-year-old Idaho archaeology site now among America’s oldest," 29 Aug. 2019 With the assistance of Tuscaloosa County Road and Bridge Department, investigators excavated a large area and located a body at the bottom of the well. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "3rd suspect charged with murder, corpse abuse in slaying of Willoe Watkins," 30 July 2019 Using elongated screwdrivers and pickaxes, Duran and Kjelland excavated the skull. Eduardo Medina, SFChronicle.com, "UC Merced student finds 65 million-year-old Triceratops skull," 26 July 2019 Over the years, Tap Pilam elders have re-interned human remains excavated at the missions and a downtown Catholic hospital developed atop the city’s first Catholic cemetery. Elaine Ayala, ExpressNews.com, "Alamo plan excluding lineal descendants to its own detriment," 18 July 2019 Pirro Ligorio, Tivoli's architect, was conveniently also excavating Hadrian's Villa at the same time. Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY, "Tivoli: Why this Italian city is still Rome's great escape, 2,000 years later," 16 July 2019 To better understand the Nasca birds, Eda and his colleagues plan to compare the Nasca images with birds drawn and painted on Nasca pottery from the same period, as well as bird remains excavated at the ruins of Nasca settlements. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "New study takes a bird’s-eye view of the Nasca Lines," 20 June 2019 Greta Gerwig proved her aptitude for excavating the mind of a teenage girl with 2017's nouveau cult favorite Lady Bird. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Little Women Trailer Is a Nostalgic Punch to the Gut," 13 Aug. 2019 Singer/frontman John Darnielle has made a career out of excavating the painful, sad and funny truth about young people trying to make sense of their lives in America. John Adamian, courant.com, "The Mountain Goats, excavating life in America with candor, wisdom, coming to College Street," 5 Aug. 2019

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

7 Sep 2019

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 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

What made you want to look up excavate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


readily or continually undergoing change

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