Dig Up vs Excavate

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You might dig up weeds in your garden in spring before you start planting flowers or vegetables. Or if there has been a crime committed in a house, the police might dig up the garden to look for evidence buried in the ground.
Digging up means either digging holes in an area of land, or removing something from under the ground:

  • I found an enormous centipede while I was digging up the lawn.
  • They dug up three bodies in the serial killer’s garden.

It is also used figuratively to mean search for and manage to find something:

  • I didn’t have much money to spend on my car, so I needed to dig up a mechanic who didn’t charge much.
  • Where did you dig up that old photo? It was taken before you were even born.

Excavating, on the other hand, is done with more care. When archaeologists excavate an area of land, they remove layers of earth from it carefully and see if they find something valuable underneath.

  • Excavations at Delphi began in the 1890s.

The word excavation is also used when talking about digging a hole in the ground so that something can be built on it:

  • If you want to build a house, the first thing you have to do is excavate for the foundation.

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