Difference Between Cave and Cavern (With Table)

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

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

Caves vs Cavern

The difference between a cave and a cavern is that a cave is a natural or sometimes man-made cavity in a rock that has an opening on the side of a mountain or hill, whereas a cavern is a type of cave that is huge and underground. Cave and cavern sound and look alike. Many think that they are just synonyms. They have a very thin line of differences that distinguishes between them.

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

A cavern is a type of cave. All caverns are caves, but not all caves are caverns. It is a naturally formed soluble rock (by the dissolution of 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 Between Cave and Cavern

 Parameters of Comparison  Cave Cavern
 Meaning The 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.
 Types There are a lot of types of caves- primary, sea, karst, erosional, etc. Caverns have no other types as it is a type of cave itself.
 Number of Chambers Caves have a single opening or a chamber. It has several openings or chambers that are connected by passages.
 Rock Material Caves 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 towards the ground.

What is Cave?

A cave is any natural opening or cavity in the ground or hill that does not receive any direct sunlight in one part. Caves are generally natural but can also be man-made. Natural caves take a lot of years and many chemical and geographical reactions to form.

Weathering of rock, volcanic activity, pressure, 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 speleogensis is the term for the formation of caves.

Caves can be active (that has an active flow of water) and relict caves (may have still water 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( 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, United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, etc. Caving is one reason why explored caves are found widely in Asia, Europe, and 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 towards the ground.

Cavern usually has a series of caves or chambers, and some passages connect the open spaces. Caverns create stalagmites and have the ability to grow speleothems. Caverns are formed naturally by weathering of rock, pressure, volcanic activity, etc., and are formed due to the dissolution of dolomite, limestones, etc. (soluble ingredients). Caverns can collapse either in a minute or can 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. It is said that the chief caverns lay on the border or within the great valley region of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Tennessee, etc.

Main Differences Between Cave and Cavern

  1. All caverns are caves, whereas all caves are not caverns, as caverns are just a type of cave.
  2. Caves usually just have one opening, whereas caverns are a series of cave chambers and are connected through passages.
  3. Caves are straight, upwards, or downwards whereas caverns are very steep towards the ground.
  4. Caves are made up of many materials, including soluble rocks and chemicals, whereas 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.


Caves have played an important role in mankind; they have a very long history. Caves were used as shelters and a mode of art (rock paintings, carvings, etc.). Historians and archaeologists found a lot of information about the past with the help of all these art forms. All this was possible by studying caves which are known as – speleology.  

It can be a little difficult to trace the difference between caves and caverns as there is a very thin line difference. A cavern is just a type of cave, but few people consider it as one. There won’t be a very clear view of it.


  1. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Lp-TIIZ_GpAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=caves&ots=US3LtQ0U1i&sig=i5j9II0evnSMG9Pu6-bLMnXXReA
  2. https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsabulletin/article-lookup/41/3/475

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