Glossary of caving and speleology

There are a number of terms that are used in connection with caves, caving and speleology. The following is an incomplete list.


  • Airbell - An enclosed air space in a flooded tube between the water and the roof
  • Anthodite - A speleothem (cave formation) composed of long needle-like crystals situated in clusters which radiate outward from a common base.


  • Belly crawl - A passage that is very low
  • Biospeleology - A branch of biology dedicated to the study of organisms that live in caves and are collectively referred to as troglofauna.
  • Boneyard - An intricate maze of limestone with many holes where material has dissolved away.[1]
  • Boulder choke - A collection of large rocks or rubble that obstructs the passage of a cave or mine. In order to progress through passages cavers often need to negotiate or clear boulder chokes.
  • Buffoon - Also called a speleo-buffoon or cave-buffoon, a derogatory term referring to cavers who are unprepared and make poor decisions.[2]


  • Cave conservancy - A specialized land trust that primarily manages caves or karst features in the United States.
  • Cave digging - The practice of enlarging undiscovered cave openings to allow entry.
  • Caver - Someone who explores caves for recreation, a synonym for spelunker[3]
  • Caving - the sport of exploring caves, a synonym for spelunking[4]
  • Cupola (cave formation) - recess, indentation, or cavity in the ceiling of a lava tube, a kind of cave formation.


  • Karst - A landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks.


  • Pit - A vertical space for which ascending or rappelling equipment is required.[5]
  • Pseudokarst - Similar to Karsts, but created by different mechanisms.


  • Cave rescue - A highly specialized field of wilderness rescue in which injured, trapped or lost cave explorers are medically treated and extracted from various cave environments.
  • Resurgence - The point where water emerges from an aquifer


  • Speleogen - A geological formation within a cave that has been created by the removal of bedrock, rather than as a secondary deposit.
  • Speleogenesis - The origin and development of caves, the primary process that determines essential features of the hydrogeology of karst and guides its evolution.
  • Spelunker - Someone who explores caves as a hobby[6], a synonym for caver
  • Spelunking - Exploring caves as a hobby[7], a synonym for caving
  • Squeeze - A tight passage
  • Stygofauna - Small aquatic animals living in caves and aquifers
  • Sump - A cave that is submerged under water. A sump may be static, with no inward or outward flow, or active, with continuous through-flow. Static sumps may also be connected underwater to active stream passage. When short in length, a sump may be called a duck.
  • Suspension trauma - Also known as harness hang syndrome (HHS), or orthostatic intolerance, is an effect which occurs when the human body is held upright without any movement for a period of time.
  • Swallow-hole - The point where water drains from the surface into a cave system


  • Terrace - A series of dams made of rimstone that slopes gently.[8]
  • Troglobite - An animal that lives entirely in the dark parts of caves
  • Troglofauna - Small, non-aquatic cave-dwelling animals


  • Whaletail - A type of descender produced from a block of aluminium block applies a variable degree of friction.[9]
  • Window - A hole in a thin wall that connects two chambers or passages.[10]

See also


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