spelunk (noun) +‎ -er. Coined by New England cave explorer Roger Charles Johnson in the 1930s.[1]



spelunker (plural spelunkers)

  1. (Canada, US) One who explores caves; one who spelunks.
    Synonyms: caver, potholer (British)
    • 1943, Clay Perry, Author and Journalist Magazine:
      I took to fishing, on mountain brooks and lakes, and finally I was inveigled into becoming a spelunker. A spelunker is a human worm who crawls into caves ("splunca" is Latin for cave) and explores them.
  2. (derogatory) An amateur or inadequately prepared caver.
    • 2002, Doug van Hemessen, “Caved in: Inside a crevice cave on the Niagara Escarpment”, in Seasons, volume 43, page 41:
      I am officially a spelunker – but not yet a caver. The dictionary definition of spelunking is “exploring caves for sport.” Serious enthusiasts shun the term, however. They are cavers. A spelunker is an inexperienced amateur. On this dry and balmy mid-November Saturday, our group contains three spelunkers and two cavers.
    • 2003, Dangerous Dick & the Duckbusters (lyrics and music), “Creepy Crawlways”:
      But the scariest of all’s the witless caver;
      Spelunker is the name that he goes by.
      He caves alone with just one light,
      A worn-out rope, and boots too tight,
      Looking for a cave in which to die.
    • 2011, Michael Gordon, Caving in Ontario: Exploring Buried Karst:
      it is a truth that every caver was once a spelunker with a flashlight and a tangled ball of string.
    • 2018, Douglas Reichert Powell, Endless Caverns: An Underground Journey into the Show Caves of Appalachia:
      “‘Cavers,’” the editor notes, “generally consider ‘spelunkers’ to be people who have no real knowledge or understanding of caves and caving safety, but who decide to enter a cave anyway, usually without proper equipment.”

Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ Johnson, Karl and Sarah (February 2, 2018), “Son of 'caveman,' Springfield bookstore president Charlie Johnson marks 90th birthday”, in MassLive[1], retrieved 2019-03-12