See more synonyms for catacomb on
  1. Usually catacombs. an underground cemetery, especially one consisting of tunnels and rooms with recesses dug out for coffins and tombs.
  2. the Catacombs, the subterranean burial chambers of the early Christians in and near Rome, Italy.
  3. an underground passageway, especially one full of twists and turns.

Origin of catacomb

before 900; Middle English catacombe, Old English catacumbe < Late Latin catacumbās (accusative plural); of disputed orig.; perhaps < Greek *katakýmbās, equivalent to kata- cata- + kýmbās, accusative plural of kýmbē hollow, cup
Related formscat·a·cum·bal [kat-uh-kuhm-buh l] /ˌkæt əˈkʌm bəl/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for catacomb

chamber, crypt, grotto, cave, passageway

Examples from the Web for catacomb

Historical Examples of catacomb

  • And is there not a column in the catacomb to which, if a madman is bound, he recovers his reason?

  • The plan of the catacomb of S. Priscilla is a good illustration of this.

  • The only marvel is, how he comes to be hiding himself in the catacomb.

    The Marble Faun, Volume I.

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • What does it matter, so long as the whole mountain is a catacomb of kings?

    Summer Cruising in the South Seas

    Charles Warren Stoddard

  • Let us leave the catacomb, if you wish, and you can repeat your story to me up above.

British Dictionary definitions for catacomb


  1. (usually plural) an underground burial place, esp the galleries at Rome, consisting of tunnels with vaults or niches leading off them for tombs
  2. a series of interconnected underground tunnels or caves

Word Origin for catacomb

Old English catacumbe, from Late Latin catacumbas (singular), name of the cemetery under the Basilica of St Sebastian, near Rome; origin unknown
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for catacomb

usually catacombs, from Old English catacumbas, from Late Latin (400 C.E.) catacumbae (plural), originally the region of underground tombs between the 2nd and 3rd milestones of the Appian Way (where the bodies of apostles Paul and Peter, among others, were said to have been laid), origin obscure, perhaps once a proper name, or dissimilation from Latin cata tumbas "at the graves," from cata- "among" + tumbas. accusative plural of tumba "tomb" (see tomb).

If so, the word perhaps was altered by influence of Latin -cumbere "to lie." From the same source are French catacombe, Italian catacomba, Spanish catacumba. Extended by 1836 in English to any subterranean receptacle of the dead (as in Paris). Related: Catacumbal.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper