Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An underground cemetery consisting of chambers or tunnels with recesses for graves. Often used in the plural.
  • n. An underground, often labyrinthine passageway.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An underground system of tunnels and chambers with recesses for graves, used (in former times) as a cemetery; a subterranean tunnel system used for burying the dead, as in Paris or ancient Rome.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A cave, grotto, or subterraneous place of large extent used for the burial of the dead; -- commonly in the plural.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Originally, the name of a locality near Rome, the “Hollows,” in which the church of St. Sebastian, with extensive burial-vaults, was built; but afterward applied to the vaults themselves, and to similar underground burial-places.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an underground tunnel with recesses where bodies were buried (as in ancient Rome)

Etymologies

Probably French catacombe, from Old French, from Late Latin catacumba.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French catacombe, from Italian catacomba, from late Latin catacumbas, in greek κατά kata - under, latin cumba - cavity (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The term catacomb was applied to these subterranean cemeteries at a much later period.

    Museum of Antiquity A Description of Ancient Life

  • Catacumbas, whence the term catacomb, a word seemingly of uncertain origin (Northcote and Brownlow, I, 262-63).

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 3: Brownson-Clairvaux

  • In the northeast corner of the tomb was a small votive vessel filled with ocher, next to it more ocher, a stone pestle, and three objects made from the metacarpals of animals; in the northwest corner archaeologists found a bronze knife and a long bronze awl broken in half; in the southwest corner were two vessels covered with stone lids; and in the southeast corner, archaeologists were surprised to find a censer of a type commonly found in later so-called catacomb burials that had been placed upside down.

    Caucasus Kurgan Cache

  • In some cases this accumulation of earth and sand has protected and hidden that portion of the catacomb which is vertically underneath and thus rescued many precious memorials from the ill-considered attentions, or outrages, of earlier explorers.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 9: Laprade-Mass Liturgy

  • At another church is a kind of catacomb for the Earls of Kent: there are ten sumptuous monuments.

    The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford — Volume 4

  • Collins is also unconvinced by Hawass's explanation of what he calls the "catacomb".

    Latest Articles

  • Although Dr Hawass suggests there is no mystery surrounding the "catacomb", Collins suspects that the caves extend beneath the Second Pyramid, where ancient tradition puts the legendary tomb of Tomb of Hermes, Egypt's legendary founder.

    Latest Articles

  • Vaster, more ambitious schemes were proposed, including a giant pyramidal catacomb atop Primrose Hill to house five million souls (the upper levels financed by the sale of the lower in an, er, pyramid-selling scheme), to which the seven were the sane and suburban alternative.

    January « 2009 « Squares of Wheat

  • It seemed like we were in the cellars or a catacomb of some sort.

    My Fair Succubi

  • Hundreds of refugees packed into each level of the stone catacomb; the further down you descended, the more miserable they were, like rings of hell.

    Day of Honey

Comments

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  • Best catacomb is the Capuchin Catacombs

    August 23, 2008

  • caTacOMB

    April 24, 2008

  • Even better catacombs under Paris:

    Neatly Stacked For Posterity

    (I've seen the Roman ones too).

    December 2, 2007