General English


  • noun a strongroom in a bank, usually underground, where valuables can be deposited


  • An enclosure built above or below ground large enough to accommodate human entry. Vaults are used to install, operate, and maintain electrical cables and equipment.
  • A masonry structure with an arched ceiling.
  • A room used for storage of valuable records and/or computer tapes that is of fire-resistant construction, has safe electric components, and has a controlled atmosphere.

Origin & History of “vault”

Vault ‘arched roof’ (14th c.) and vault ‘jump’ (16th c.) are distinct words, although they share a common ancestor: Latin volvere ‘roll, turn’ (source also of English involve, revolve, etc). Its feminine past participle volūta evolved in vulgar Latin into *volta, which was used as a noun meaning ‘turn’, hence ‘curved roof’. English acquired it via Old French voute or vaute. The use of vaulted ceilings in underground rooms led in the 16th century to the application of vault to ‘burial chamber’.

Also from volvere came Vulgar Latin *volvitāre ‘turn a horse’, hence ‘leap, gambol’. this passed via Italian voltare and French volter into English as vault.