before 900;Middle Englishcatacombe,Old Englishcatacumbe < Late Latincatacumbās (accusative plural); of disputed orig.; perhaps < Greek*katakýmbās, equivalent to kata-cata- + kýmbās, accusative plural of kýmbē hollow, cup
O.E. catacumbas, from L.L. (400 C.E.) catacumbae, originally the region of underground tombs between the 2nd and 3rd milestones of the Appian Way (where the bodies of apostles Paul and Peter were said to have been laid), origin obscure, perhaps once a proper name, or dissimilation from L. cata tumbas "at the graves," from cata- "among" + tumbas, acc. pl. of tumba "tomb." Extended 1836 to any subterranean receptacle of the dead (as in Paris).