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catacomb

[kat-uh-kohm] /ˈkæt əˌkoʊm/
noun
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
900
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 forms
catacumbal
[kat-uh-kuhm-buh l] /ˌkæt əˈkʌm bəl/ (Show IPA),
adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for catacomb
  • Entrances are cut into the rock faces, as to a catacomb.
  • The tradition of catacomb tourism continues today, with many thousands of visitors coming each year.
  • He seems to be after something else, using sheer scale to create a kind of catacomb of the discarded.
  • The three-story burial catacomb is intricately carved from rock.
  • It's as if prose is a horizontal structure, built across a surface, while poetry is a catacomb.
British Dictionary definitions for catacomb

catacomb

/ˈkætəˌkəʊm; -ˌkuːm/
noun
1.
(usually pl) 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
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
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Word Origin and History for catacomb
n.

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
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