Cave vs Cavern: Difference and Comparison

Nature never misses a chance to surprise us. We can’t keep track of so many natural beauties in our world. It leaves us astonished by every aspect of it.

There are so many different types of trees, flowers, water bodies, stones, etc., that we come across, and each one is a beauty in itself. Caves and caverns are a product of this nature. They are almost the same but also have differences.  

Key Takeaways

  1. “Cave” and “cavern” describe natural underground spaces but differ in size, formation, and location.
  2. A cave is a general term for any naturally occurring underground space, while a cavern specifically refers to a large cave with intricate formations such as stalactites and stalagmites.
  3. Caves can be found in various environments, such as mountains and coastal regions, while caverns are formed in limestone or other soluble rock formations.

Caves vs Cavern

A cave is a natural underground opening large enough for a person to enter. It’s formed by weathering and erosion of rocks and can have a variety of formations, such as stalactites and stalagmites. A cavern is a large, underground chamber with a high ceiling, often with multiple rooms and passages. They can be natural or man-made.

Caves vs Cavern

A cave is any cavity or chamber on the side of a hill or ground. They do not receive direct sunlight. There are different sizes of shelters. It takes a lot of time (years) to form.


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Many geological and chemical processes, like a microorganism, pressure, tectonic forces and erosion by water, etc., are involved in forming a cave. There are different types of shelters.

A cavern is a type of cave. All caverns are caves, but not all shelters are caverns. It is a naturally formed soluble rock (by dissolving soluble chemicals like limestone, dolomite, etc.).

When acid in any form of a solution is present in groundwater, weathering of rock, pressure or volcanic activity can form a cavern.

Comparison Table

 Parameters of ComparisonCaveCavern
 MeaningThe cave is a natural or human-made cavity or a chamber on a rock or hillside.A cavern is a type of cave formed naturally. It is a hollow opening underground.
 TypesThere are many types of caves- primary, sea, karst, erosional, etc.Caverns have no other types as it is a type of cave itself.
 Number of ChambersCaves have a single opening or a chamber.It has several openings or chambers that are connected by passages.
 Rock MaterialCaves are made up of many materials, including soluble materials/chemicals.Caverns are made up of soluble materials like limestone, dolomite, etc.
 Occurrence (angle)Caves are straight, upwards, or downwards.Caverns are very steep toward the ground.

What is Cave?

A cave is any natural opening or cavity in the ground or hill that receives no direct sunlight in one part. Caves are generally natural but can also be man-made. Natural caves take many years and chemical and geographical reactions to form.

Weathering of rock, volcanic activity, pressure, and water erosion are a few reasons that help to form a cave. The science of exploration and study of caves is known as speleology, and skeletogenesis is the term for the formation of caves.

Caves can be active (with a dynamic flow of water) and relict caves (may have still or no water). Active caves are of three types – inflow, outflow, and through.

There are many types of caves –

  1. Solution or karst caves – most frequently occurring caves(mostly of limestone)
  2. Primary caves – formed simultaneously as the surrounding rock(for example – lava tubes)
  3. Sea/littoral – along the coasts or formed by wave action.
  4. Correctional/ erosional – formed by the erosion of rocks and chemicals.
  5. And many more.

Caves are found all over the world. Caving has been popular in countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, etc. Caving is one reason why explored caves are found widely in Asia, Europe, North America, etc.


What is Cavern?

A cavern is nothing but a type of cave. It is a large hollow opening underground and is extremely steep toward the ground.

Cavern has a series of caves or chambers, and some passages connect the open spaces. Caverns create stalagmites and can grow speleothems.

Caverns are formed naturally by weathering rock, pressure, volcanic activity, etc., due to the dissolution of dolomite, limestones, etc. (soluble ingredients). Caverns can collapse in a minute or take many years, slowly forming a depression. 

The caverns of Shenandoah Valley, located in Virginia, are dramatic examples of underground passages, rooms, and many such features. The chief caverns are said to lay on the border or within the great valley region of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, etc.


Main Differences Between Cave and Cavern

  1. All caverns are caves, whereas all are not, as caverns are just a type of cave.
  2. Caves have one opening, whereas caverns are a series of cave chambers connected through passages.
  3. Caves are straight, upwards, or downwards whereas caverns are very steep toward the ground.
  4. Caves are made up of many materials, including soluble rocks and chemicals. In contrast, caverns are made up of soluble ones like dolomite, etc., and only caverns can create stalagmites and form speleothems.
  5. Caves can be both natural and man-made, whereas caverns are naturally formed.
Difference Between Cave and Cavern

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