AskDefine | Define pothole

Dictionary Definition

pothole n : a pit or hole produced by wear or weathering (especially in a road surface) [syn: chuckhole]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A hole in a road’s surface, especially one caused by erosion or traffic use.
  2. A pit formed in the bed of a turbulent stream.
    • Pothole - 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 first a natural depression of the rock. Webster 1913
    • ''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. A vertical cave system, often found in limestone


large pit in the bed of a stream


a hole in a road
pit in the bed of a stream
  • Finnish: hiidenkirnu

Derived terms

See also

Extensive Definition

Potholing can also be the sport of exploring vertical caves as a synonym of caving.
A pothole (sometimes called kettle and known in parts of the Western United States as a chuckhole) is a type of disruption in the surface of a roadway where a portion of the road material has broken away, leaving a hole. Most potholes are formed due to fatigue of the pavement surface. As fatigue cracks develop they typically interlock in a pattern known as "alligator cracking". The chunks of pavement between fatigue cracks are worked loose and may eventually be picked out of the surface by continued wheel loads, thus forming a pothole. The formation of potholes is exacerbated by cold temperatures, as water expands when it freezes and puts more stress on cracked pavement. Once a pothole forms, it grows through continued removal of broken chunks of pavement. If a pothole fills with water the growth may be accelerated, as the water 'washes away' loose particles of road surface as vehicles pass. In temperate climates, potholes tend to form most often during spring months when the subgrade is weak due to high moisture content. However, potholes are a frequent occurrence anywhere in the world, including in the tropics.
Potholes can grow to feet in width, though they usually only become a few inches deep, at most. If they become large enough, damage to tires and vehicle suspensions can occur.

Other uses

Pothole (northern Britain) is also a term for a deep cave; from this sense, the derivation potholing is a synonym for caving and a potholer is a caver.
Pothole (or kettle-hole) is also a term for a formation in rivers caused by a whirlpool eroding a hole into rock. The abrasion is mainly caused by the circular motion of small sediments such as small stones in the river. The interiors of potholes tend to be smooth and regular, unlike a plunge pool. An example is the large pothole found in Archbald, Pennsylvania in Archbald Pothole State Park.
The Pothole is a well known sport fishing location in the tailwaters below Powersite Dam in southwest Missouri. It is the uppermost portion of Bull Shoals Lake.
"The holes in our roads" story from the Daily Mail's 7 January 1967 edition reported that there were 4,000 potholes in Blackburn, Lancashire. That story was mentioned in The Beatles's song A Day in the Life.


pothole in German: Schlagloch
pothole in French: Nid-de-poule
pothole in Japanese: 甌穴
pothole in Russian: Колдобина
pothole in Chinese: 壺穴
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