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[lah-vuh, lav-uh] /ˈlɑ və, ˈlæv ə/
the molten, fluid rock that issues from a volcano or volcanic vent.
the rock formed when this solidifies, occurring in many varieties differing greatly in structure and constitution.
Origin of lava
1740-50; < Italian, orig. Neapolitan dialect: avalanche < Latin lābēs a sliding down, falling, akin to lābī to slide
Can be confused
larva, lava.
lava, magma. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for lava


magma emanating from volcanoes and other vents
any extrusive igneous rock formed by the cooling and solidification of molten lava
Word Origin
C18: from Italian (Neapolitan dialect), from Latin lavāre to wash
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for lava

1750, from Italian (Neapolitan or Calabrian dialect) lava "torrent, stream," traditionally from Latin lavare "to wash" (see lave). Originally applied in Italian to flash flood rivulets after downpours, then to streams of molten rock from Vesuvius. Alternative etymology is from Latin labes "a fall," from labi "to fall." Lava lamp is attested from 1965, also lava light (reg. U.S., 1968, as Lava Lite).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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lava in Science
  1. Molten rock that flows from a volcano or from a crack in the Earth. Most lava flows at a rate of a few kilometers per hour, but rates as high as 60 km (37 mi) per hour have been observed. Lava that contains abundant iron- and magnesium-rich components usually erupts with temperatures between 1,000°C and 1,200°C (1,832deg;F and 2,192°F). Lava that contains abundant silica- and feldspar-rich components usually erupts with temperatures between 800°C and 1,000°C (1,472deg;F and 1,832°F). Compare magma.

  2. The igneous rock formed when this substance cools and hardens. Depending on its composition and the rate at which it cools, lava can be glassy, very finely grained, ropelike, or coarsely grained. When it cools underwater, it cools in pillow-shaped masses. See also aa, pahoehoe, pillow lava.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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lava in Culture

lava definition

A type of igneous rock that is formed when molten magma from a volcano hardens.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for lava


Related Terms

in a lather

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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