spelunker

noun spe·lunk·er \ spi-ˈləŋ-kər , ˈspē-ˌləŋ- \
|Updated on: 25 May 2018

Definition of spelunker

: one who makes a hobby of exploring and studying caves

spelunker was our Word of the Day on 04/30/2010. Hear the podcast!

Recent Examples of spelunker from the Web

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

Did You Know?

Spelunker sounds like the noise a pebble makes when you drop it down a deep hole and into dark, hidden water far below. But there's nothing dark or obscure about the etymology of the term. We borrowed "spelunker" from Latin spelunca, which in turn derives from Greek spelynx. When you get to the bottom of things, you find that both the Latin and Greek words mean "cave." Although "spelunker" might sound neat, be careful: some cave-exploring enthusiasts prefer the term "caver."

Origin and Etymology of spelunker

Latin spēlunca "cave" (borrowed from Greek spēlynk-, stem of spêlynx "cave") + 2-er — more at speleology
Note: Word popularized, if not coined, by the author and outdoorsman Clair Willard Perry ("Clay Perry," 1887-1961), perhaps earliest in Underground New England (Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Daye Press, 1939), p. 219: "There is an informal caveman's club in New England, a group of men and boys who for several years have been making a more or less systematic study of the caves and old mines of the country, extending their research throughout eastern New York state as well. They call themselves 'spelunkers,' taking the name from the snappy Latin title for a cave, 'spelunka,' and from the high-sounding British caveman's club which is 'British Speleological Association'."


SPELUNKER Defined for English Language Learners

spelunker

Definition of spelunker for English Language Learners

  • : a person who explores and studies caves as a hobby


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