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[vol-key-noh] /vɒlˈkeɪ noʊ/
noun, plural volcanoes, volcanos.
a vent in the earth's crust through which lava, steam, ashes, etc., are expelled, either continuously or at irregular intervals.
a mountain or hill, usually having a cuplike crater at the summit, formed around such a vent from the ash and lava expelled through it.
Origin of volcano
1605-15; < Italian < Latin Volcānus, variant of Vulcānus Vulcan
Can be confused
caldera, fumarole, geyser, volcano. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for volcanoes


noun (pl) -noes, -nos
an opening in the earth's crust from which molten lava, rock fragments, ashes, dust, and gases are ejected from below the earth's surface
a mountain formed from volcanic material ejected from a vent in a central crater
Word Origin
C17: from Italian, from Latin VolcānusVulcan1, whose forges were believed to be responsible for volcanic rumblings
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 volcanoes



1610s, from Italian vulcano "burning mountain," from Latin Vulcanus "Vulcan," Roman god of fire, also "fire, flames, volcano" (see Vulcan). The name was first applied to Mt. Etna by the Romans, who believed it was the forge of Vulcan.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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volcanoes in Science
  1. An opening in the Earth's crust from which lava, ash, and hot gases flow or are ejected during an eruption.

  2. A usually cone-shaped mountain formed by the materials issuing from such an opening. Volcanoes are usually associated with plate boundaries but can also occur within the interior areas of a tectonic plate. Their shape is directly related to the type of magma that flows from them—the more viscous the magma, the steeper the sides of the volcano. ◇ A volcano composed of gently sloping sheets of basaltic lava from successive volcanic eruptions is called a shield volcano. The lava flows associated with shield volcanos, such as Mauna Loa, on Hawaii, are very fluid. ◇ A volcano composed of steep, alternating layers of lava and pyroclastic materials, including ash, is called a stratovolcano. Stratovolcanos are associated with relatively viscous lava and with explosive eruptions. They are the most common form of large continental volcanos. Mount Vesuvius, Mount Fuji, and Mount St. Helens are stratovolcanos. Also called composite volcano. See more at hot spot, island arc, tectonic boundary, volcanic arc.

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

volcano definition

A cone-shaped mountain or hill created by molten material that rises from the interior of the Earth to the surface.

Note: Volcanoes tend to occur along the edges of tectonic plates.
Note: Eruptions and lava flows associated with them can be very destructive. (See Mount Saint Helens and Mount Vesuvius.)
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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