the rapid formation and collapse of vapor pockets in a flowing liquid in regions of very low pressure, a frequent cause of structural damage to propellers, pumps, etc.
such a pocket formed in a flowing liquid.

1890–95; cavit(y) + -ation Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
cavitation (ˌkævɪˈteɪʃən)
1.  the formation of vapour- or gas-filled cavities in a flowing liquid when tensile stress is superimposed on the ambient pressure
2.  the formation of cavities in a structure

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

"formation of bubbles in fluid," 1895, from cavity.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

cavitation cav·i·ta·tion (kāv'ĭ-tā'shən)
The formation of cavities in a body tissue or an organ, especially those cavities that form in the lung as a result of tuberculosis.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
cavitation   (kāv'ĭ-tā'shən)  Pronunciation Key 
The formation of bubblelike gaps in a liquid. Mechanical forces, such as the moving blades of a ship's propeller or sudden negative changes in pressure, can cause cavitation.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
These bubbles grow and collapse in a process called cavitation, which liquefies tissue.
But the fury of cavitation may be put to positive use someday soon.
But the lower the pressure, the higher the chance of cavitation-the formation of air bubbles in the water column.
The physical process of cavitation inception is similar to boiling.
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