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[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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for stalactite
Historical Examples
  • We were in a long narrow cavern, water-worn, with traces of stalactite deposit on the rough walls.

    Through the Land of the Serb Mary Edith Durham
  • It will be seen that, at one place, the stalactite has united with the stalagmite below.

    The Prehistoric World E. A. Allen
  • To them we owe the stalactite roofing, afterwards developed with such success at the Alhambra.

    Southern Spain A.F. Calvert
  • I will also exchange minerals for stalagmites, and a trilobite for a stalactite.

  • I repeated the incident of being surrounded, and the way in which Tom presented a stalactite to the principal man.

    The Golden Magnet George Manville Fenn
  • Other pellets are attached, until this pillar, like a stalactite in a cave, is completed.

    The Cricket's Friends Virginia W. Johnson
  • Then we arrived at a hall called dragons room, from a stalactite, which is said to have the form of a dragon.

    Travels Through North America, v. 1-2 Berhard Saxe-Weimar Eisenach
  • The walls of the chambers and passages were encrusted with the stalactite flowers.

  • To the left of the entrance is a grotesque pillar with little domes of snowy whiteness and masses of stalactite.

    The Jenolan Caves Samuel Cook
  • The vestibule is covered by a dome with stalactite pendentives, and is perhaps the most complete and perfect example in Cairo.

British Dictionary definitions for stalactite


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
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Word Origin and History for stalactite

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
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stalactite 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.
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