20+ Difference between Cave and Cavern (Explained)

The words “cave” and “cavern” are often used interchangeably in layman’s words to refer to a cavity naturally formed in the earth.

These cavities are typically large enough to be explored by human beings. Both are formed in a very similar process: by the decomposition and subsequent degradation of rocks on the earth’s surface or beneath it. 

Despite having very few similarities, caves and caverns essentially differ in almost all aspects of comparison.

Comparison Between Cave And Cavern

DefinitionA cave is defined to be a cavity formed in a rock by decomposition.It is a type of cave that contains the presence of “speleothems.”
LocationGenerally, caves are located on the side of a mountain or hill, i.e., on the earth’s surface.Caverns can be located deep under the ground.
FormationCaves can be formed naturally as well as artificially.Caverns are not man-made. They are all created by nature.
StructureA cave is generally a large singular cavity formed inside rocks.A cavern consists of a system of chambers that are linked to each other.
Angle of occurrenceAll caves are formed in a straight structure, either upwards or downwards.Caverns have a steep structure, which goes downwards only.
TypesThere are various types of caves. For example, littoral, erosional, primary, and many more. A cavern is a type of cave. It does not contain any other subcategories.
comparison between cave and cavern

Contrast Between Cave And Cavern

The Origin:

  • Cave – A cave is formed by either natural processes or human activities. Natural caves are large cavities formed by weathering and decomposing mountainous rocks over time. In addition, volcanic eruptions can be a fundamental reason behind the origin of caves. 
  • Cavern – Caverns are formed only naturally. The factors that lead to the formation of caverns are the dissolving of soluble minerals present in rocks, such as dolomite, limestone, and so on. As a result of this formation, speleothems are a common occurrence in caverns.   


  • Cave – There are many different types of caves. The most common types are:
  • Cavern – A cavern is a type of cave. In other words, a cave that fulfills specific characteristics can be called a cavern. Thus, caverns do not contain any further subcategories.
features of cave

Presence of speleothems:

  • Cave – Caves do not contain any speleothems. Speleothems are mineral deposits that are formed over a very long duration of time.
  • Cavern – Due to their method of formation, caverns always contain speleothems. 


  • Cave – A cave consists of a single ample space or area on the side of a mountain or a hill.
  • Cavern – A cavern is technically more extensive than a cave since it consists of an interconnected network of smaller cavities. 

Material or Composition:

  • Cave – A cave can be made up of rocks, such as volcanic and soluble rocks. It is an extensive cavity carved out in a mountain or a hill, with its entrance on the earth’s surface.
  • Cavern – Compared to caves, caverns comprise solely soluble rocks like limestone or dolostone.

    An exciting feature of caverns is the formation of speleothems, which is caused when the soluble minerals of the rock crystallize together and form deposits along the ceiling and sides of the cavern.  


  • Cave – A cave contains only one entrance. Generally, the entrance is pre-existing and created during the cave’s formation.
  • Cavern – A network of multiple cavities, a cavern may have multiple openings. However, these entrances might not be created in the beginning.

    In most cases, sinkholes, avalanches, expanding valleys, or other natural phenomena are responsible for creating an entrance to a cavern. 


  • Cave – The exit of a cave might not be properly visible. In some cases, the entrance and the exit as the same openings. In most cases, the existing path does not have any distinct route.
  • Cavern- Caverns often have multiple openings. As a result, they have distinguishable entry and exit points. Many caverns consist of multiple exists. In a nutshell, the cavern’s exit is spotted by the amount of visible light. 

Adventurous sports:

  • Cave – Generally, the exploration of caves is considered to be relatively safe. However, there might always be dangers that explorers should be aware of.
  • Cavern- Diving in an underwater cavern is quite a dangerous water sport. Scuba diving and other similar cravens-related activities must be performed with extreme care since caverns are unstable and tend to collapse suddenly. In addition, minor disturbances under the water can also lead to collapsing.


  • Cave – A cave is typically a large gap found within a rock. It does not contain any unique distinguishing feature.
  • Cavern – A cavern consists of several interconnecting passages. These paths are formed due to the weathering of the parent rock and the dissolving of the minerals present.
features of cavern

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Are cave and cavern synonymous?

A cave and a cavern are not had the same geological features. Several differences distinguish the two terms.

However, most people, including geologists, often use the terms interchangeably. For many, the terms are more associated with the “degree” than the actual meaning.

Q2. Are there any similarities between a cave and a cavern?

A cave and a cavern have differences. They are two distinguishable geographical features with different unique features and characteristics.

The only aspect that makes the two similar is that they both require a long duration to form. Therefore, neither a cave (natural or artificial) nor a cavern can be created quickly.

Q3. Are caves natural or artificial?

Caves can be both made naturally or due to human activities.

Natural causes that lead to cave formation are weathering and subsequent corrosion of rocks that make up hills or mountains. Artificial caves are created by drilling and various other related activities.

Q4. Are caves safe?

The safety of a cave depends upon its penetration depth. The danger chances are high if a cave is too deep and does not contain enough sunlight.

Most importantly, there is always a scope of dangerous animals threatening explorers.

Q5. Why are caverns considered to be unstable?

Caverns are made when soluble minerals present in rocks dissolve in the presence of slightly acidic water.

Water seeping through the walls of rocks results in the formation of caverns and interconnecting passages. However, these structures are fragile. As a result, the possibility of a cavern collapsing due to minor disturbances is very high.


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