Lava vs magma

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Lava and magma are two words that are sometimes used interchangeably, though there is a difference between the definitions of the terms. We will examine the meanings of the words lava and magma, where these two terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Lava is molten rock that has broken through the surface of the earth at the site of a volcano, through a vent or fissure. Lava may flow out of a volcano or explode from a volcano. The rate of cooling of the lava determines the type of rock it will become. The word lava is derived from the Latin word lavare, which means to wash.

Magma is molten rock that is below the surface of the earth, or rock that is heated to such a high temperature that it becomes liquefied. Magma is derived from the Greek word magma, which means a thick, greasy ointment. Remember, lava is molten rock that has erupted above the surface of the earth, magma is molten rock that remains below the surface of the earth.


At one point, lava fountains were shooting 150 feet in the air, and molten lava spread out over an area about 200 yards wide behind one house in Leilani Estates, Big Island resident Ikaika Marzo told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser . (USA Today)

Hawaii County said steam and lava poured out of a crack in Leilani Estates, which is near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

The event has been building for several days, Babb said, and the tremors were a sign that magma could break through the surface at any time. (The National Post)

Researchers hope that the next generation of extremely large ground-based telescopes and mid-infrared space-based telescopes might capture images of magma oceans forming around nearby young stars. (Forbes Magazine)