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I saw this phrase used in this New Yorker article.

I think I understand it intuitively, especially with the help of google images, but I'd like to know for sure.

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re the close vote. This is a good question, simply looking up cavernous in the dictionary would suggest a room like a cave = dark rough, crude and cramped. Rather than it's normally figurative meaning of very very large. – mgb Jul 6 '11 at 16:01
@Martin Beckett: i.e. like a cavern. – user1579 Jul 6 '11 at 16:32
If you are a spelunker, cave has an image of tight, cramped, dirty and uncomfortable, not cathedral like! – mgb Jul 6 '11 at 16:39
Sorry, looking up "cavernous" should lead you to "cavern", not "cave". – user1579 Jul 6 '11 at 16:46
up vote 12 down vote accepted

It means that the room is very large, and open (even empty). High-ceilinged, and not cozy. Echoing might add to the effect.


  1. being, resembling, or suggestive of a cavern.


  1. a cave, especially one that is large and mostly underground.
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Absolutely. I doubt very much that the writer in this case intended any troglodyte associations such as primitive, dark, underground. Large, opulent, light, and sparsely-furnished, more likely. – FumbleFingers Jul 6 '11 at 15:20
@Fumble: More good descriptive words there. – Daniel Jul 6 '11 at 15:23
+1. IMO, acoustics are important to make a room "cavernous". – theidiotbox Jul 6 '11 at 19:09

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