[stuh-lak-tahyt, stal-uh k-tahyt]
  1. 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 formsstal·ac·tit·ic [stal-uh k-tit-ik] /ˌstæl əkˈtɪt ɪk/, stal·ac·tit·i·cal, adjectivestal·ac·tit·i·cal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedstalactite stalagmite Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for stalactites

Historical Examples of stalactites

  • In a moment I was through the line to the pile of stalactites.

  • 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.

  • Also commonly found in veins, and as spring and cave deposits (stalactites).


    William J. Miller

British Dictionary definitions for stalactites


  1. a cylindrical mass of calcium carbonate hanging from the roof of a limestone cave: formed by precipitation from continually dripping waterCompare stalagmite
Derived Formsstalactiform (stəˈlæktɪˌfɔːm), adjectivestalactitic (ˌstæləkˈtɪtɪk) or stalactitical, adjective

Word Origin for stalactite

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

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

stalactites in Science


  1. 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

stalactites in Culture



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


Stalactites grow very slowly.


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.