Webster 1913 Edition



A circular hole formed in the rocky beds of rivers by the grinding action of stones or gravel whirled round by the water in what was at first a natural depression of the rock.

Definition 2024



See also: pot-hole and pot hole


A pothole in a road.

Alternative forms


pothole (plural potholes)

  1. A shallow pit or other edged depression in a road's surface, especially when caused by erosion by weather or traffic.
  2. A pit formed in the bed of a turbulent stream.
    • The earliest ideas on the creation of potholes are that they were associated with "moulins de glacier" (glacier mills) formed where surface streams on glaciers and ice sheets fall into holes in the ice. Water entering these surficial holes was believed to impact on the bedrock beneath creating a large pothole. The "Moulin Hypothesis", first suggested in 1874, continued to be accepted by many authors until the 1950s. However, commencing in the 1930s, other authors have suggested dissatisfaction with the moulin hypothesis, largely on the grounds that it failed to explain how ice could remain stable long enough for the "giant" potholes to form and why many potholes (like those at Rockwood) were present in large numbers. Grand River Conservation Authority (Canada) Newsletter of May-June 2002.
  3. (geology) A vertical cave system, often found in limestone.
  4. (archaeology) A pit resulting from unauthorized excavation by treasure hunters or vandals.
  5. A hole or recess on the top of a stove into which a pot may be placed.
    • 1984, Stoves and trees: how much wood would a woodstove save if a woodstove could save wood?:
      Stoves with two or more potholes
      The normal single-pot stove in which the pot sits on top, rather than being sunk into the pothole, has a major limitation.


Related terms

  • (pit resulting from unauthorizd excavation): pothunter

Derived terms


See also