UIS Commission on Karst Hydrogeology and Speleogenesis
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Glossary of Karst and Cave Terms

1. 'A natural home in the ground, large enough for human entry' is probably the most useful definition. This covers the enormous variety of caves that do occur but eliminates the many artificial tunnels and galleries incorrectly named caves. The size criterion is arbitrary and subjective, but practical, as it eliminates narrow openings irrelevant to explorers but very significant hydrologically, that may be better referred to as proto-caves, sub-conduits or fissures. A cave may be a single, short length of accessible passage, or an extensive and complex network of tunnels as long as the hundreds of kilometers in the Flint Mammoth Cave System. Most caves are formed by dissolution in limestone but sandstone caves, lava caves, glacier caves and tectonic caves also occur. Marginal candidates for use of the name cave include riverbank undercuts and rock shelters of various origins. In some countries a cave is regarded as being a horizontal opening, as opposed to a pothole, which is a vertical opening. This usage is common in England but is not ubiquitous [9]. 2. A natural opening formed in the rocks below the surface of the ground large enough for a man to enter. It may consist of a single connected opening or a series of small or large chambers connected by galleries [20]. 3. A similar artificial opening [10]. Related to cavern. Synonyms: (French.) grotte, caverne; (German.) Hohle, Grotte; (Greek.) speleon; (Italian.) caverna, grotta; (Russian.) pescera; (Spanish.) cueva; (Turkish.) magara; (Yugoslavian.) pecina. pec, pestera, spilja, zijjalka, jama. See also active cave; bedding cave; cave system; grotto; sea cave.