AskDefine | Define caveman

Dictionary Definition

caveman n : someone who dwells in a cave [syn: cave man, cave dweller, troglodyte]

User Contributed Dictionary



From cave + man, based on the supposition that early humans dwelt in caves.



  1. Early humans or closely related species, popularly held to reside in caves.
    The political cartoon showed the politician as a caveman, clubbing the budget depcited as a mammoth.
  2. A brutish or savage person.
    The football squad was comprised of cavemen who were responsible for trashing many a locker room.
  3. A man with old fashioned or backward opinions, particularly with regard to women.
    Old Sven is a bit of a caveman; he figures giving women the right to vote was a bad idea.


early humans or related species

Extensive Definition

A caveman is a popular stock character based upon stereotyped concepts of the way in which early prehistoric humans or homininans may have looked and behaved. The term is sometimes used colloquially to refer to the Neanderthals or Cro-Magnon (i.e., Homo sapiens of the Paleolithic era). The term has been discouraged in serious use, due to its inaccuracy and dependence on certain misconceptions about early humans.

History and meaning of the term

In the past, many people shared the view of the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes that the life of a human being without civilization was "...solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short". The modern scientific perception of prehistoric lifestyle is now that of the hunter-gatherer.
Caveman is traditionally portrayed as being clothed in animal skins, armed with bone or wood (like sam)clubs, unintelligent, aggressive. Furthermore, cavemen are often shown as living in caves; but this stemmed from the ritual paintings found in caves: it is more probable that the caves were religious gathering places or temporary shelter, and not the actual dwellings of the supposed 'cavemen'. Thus, expressions such as "Balrog" or "living in a hole" have become cultural metaphors for a modern human who supposedly displays traits of brutishness or extreme ignorance. See also troglodyte.
In fiction, especially as pure entertainment or satire, cavemen are sometimes as living contemporaneously with dinosaurs, a situation contradicted by archaeological and paleontological evidence which shows that non-avian dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, at which time true primates had not yet appeared.
In popular culture, the comic strips B.C., Alley Oop and occasionally The Far Side, and Gogs, portray "cavemen" in that way. The animated television series The Flintstones, a spoof on family sitcoms, portrays the Flintstones, not in caves, but in 1950s-1960s ranch-style homes that suggested caves and had stone fittings.
Stereotypical cavemen are also often featured in advertising, including advertisements for Minute Maid. More recently, GEICO launched a series of television commercials and attempts at viral marketing, collectively known as the GEICO Cavemen advertising campaign, where GEICO announcers are repeatedly denounced by modern cavemen for perpetuating a stereotype of unintelligent, backward cavemen. The GEICO advertisements spawned a TV series called Cavemen (TV series) which is currently on indefinite hiatus.

Depictions of the Paleolithic in the media


Caveman plays

See also

caveman in German: Höhlenmensch
caveman in French: Homme des cavernes
caveman in Italian: Cavernicolo
caveman in Dutch: Holbewoner
caveman in Polish: Jaskiniowiec

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bronze Age man, Hominidae, Iron Age man, Stone Age man, aboriginal, aborigine, ancient, antediluvian, anthropoid, ape-man, autochthon, bucko, bushman, cave dweller, fossil man, he-man, hominid, humanoid, jock, jockstrap, man of old, missing link, preadamite, prehistoric man, prehuman, primate, primitive, protohuman, troglodyte
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