April 05, 2012
stalactite (noun)
\stuh-LAK-tyte\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: a deposit of calcium carbonate resembling an icicle hanging from the roof or sides of a cavern
How do you use it?
Inside the cave we discovered a fascinating assortment of stalactites, stalagmites, and other rock formations, as well as an underground river.
Are you a word wiz?

English borrowed "stalactite" from Latin, which adopted it from the Greek word "stalaktos." Think about how a stalactite forms, then answer this: what do you think "stalaktos" means?

Stalactites form from mineral-filled water dripping from the ceiling of a cave, so it makes sense that the word "stalactite" comes from a Greek term that means "dripping." Stalagmites are similar to stalactites, but stalactites hang down from a cave ceiling and stalagmites grow up from a cave floor. To keep track of which one goes up and which one goes down, try to mentally connect the "c" in "stalactite" with the word "ceiling" and the "g" in "stalagmite" with the word "ground."
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