Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[stuh-lak-tahyt, stal-uh k-tahyt] /stəˈlæk taɪt, ˈstæl əkˌtaɪt/
a deposit, usually of calcium carbonate, shaped like an icicle, hanging from the roof of a cave or the like, and formed by the dripping of percolating calcareous water.
Origin of stalactite
1670-80; < New Latin stalactites < Greek stalakt(ós) dripping (stalag-, stem of stalássein to drip + -tos verbid suffix) + New Latin -ites -ite1
Related forms
[stal-uh k-tit-ik] /ˌstæl əkˈtɪt ɪk/ (Show IPA),
stalactitical, adjective
stalactitically, adverb
Can be confused
stalactite, stalagmite. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for stalactites
Historical Examples
  • In a moment I was through the line to the pile of stalactites.

    The Winged Men of Orcon David R. Sparks
  • Thousands of stalactites hung from the roof like golden icicles.

    The Golden Dream R.M. Ballantyne
  • From the roof of many of these vaults were stalactites, but of no great length.

  • “It was clever of him to fasten it to these stalactites, too,” added Peggy.

    The Mystery of Carlitos Helen Randolph
  • Also commonly found in veins, and as spring and cave deposits (stalactites).

    Geology William J. Miller
  • Not very far away is the famous cave, bristling with stalactites.

    Motor tours in Yorkshire Mrs. Rodolph Stawell
  • The roof is densely crowded with stalactites of every type of beauty.

    The Jenolan Caves Samuel Cook
  • Even the stalactites and stalagmites are overlaid with ornamentation.

    The Jenolan Caves Samuel Cook
  • The stalactites and formation at the mouth of the cave are pure alabaster.

    The Jenolan Caves Samuel Cook
  • Some of the stalactites have their lower portions damaged in a similar way.

    The Jenolan Caves Samuel Cook
British Dictionary definitions for stalactites


a cylindrical mass of calcium carbonate hanging from the roof of a limestone cave: formed by precipitation from continually dripping water Compare stalagmite
Derived Forms
stalactiform (stəˈlæktɪˌfɔːm) adjective
stalactitic (ˌstæləkˈtɪtɪk), stalactitical, adjective
Word Origin
C17: from New Latin stalactites, from Greek stalaktos dripping, from stalassein to drip
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for stalactites



1670s, Englished from Modern Latin stalactites (used 1654 by Olaus Wormius), from Greek stalaktos "dripping," from stalassein "to trickle," from PIE root *stag- "to seep, drip, drop" (cf. German stallen, Lithuanian telziu "to urinate").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
stalactites in Science
A cylindrical or conical mineral deposit projecting downward from the roof of a cave or cavern, formed by the dripping of water saturated with minerals. Stalactites form gradually as the minerals precipitate out of the saturated water. They usually consist of calcite but can also consist of other minerals. Compare stalagmite.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
stalactites in Culture
stalactites [(stuh-lak-teyets)]

Rock structures formed on the ceilings of caves as water drips down, leaving behind minerals before it falls. (Compare stalagmites.)

Note: Stalactites grow very slowly.
Note: One easy way to distinguish stalactites from stalagmites is to recall that stalactites “hold tight” to the ceiling of a cave. Stalagmites “might reach the ceiling” of the cave and form a column.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for stalactites

Difficulty index for stalactite

Many English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for stalactites

Scrabble Words With Friends