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Stalactite vs. Stalagmite — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on October 27, 2023
"Stalactite" is a formation hanging from cave ceilings, while "Stalagmite" rises from the cave floor. Both are formed by the dripping of mineral-rich water over time.
Stalactite vs. Stalagmite — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Stalactite and Stalagmite


Key Differences

"Stalactite" and "Stalagmite" are both mineral formations found within caves, but they have distinct locations and growth patterns. Stalactites hang downward from cave ceilings, resembling icicles made of rock, while Stalagmites grow upward from the cave floor.
The formation process of Stalactites begins when water containing dissolved calcium carbonate drips from the cave's ceiling. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind a minute deposit of calcium carbonate. Over time, these deposits accumulate, forming a Stalactite. On the other hand, Stalagmites are formed when the drips from Stalactites fall to the ground and deposit mineral layers as they evaporate.
An easy way to remember the difference is by their position: "Stalactite" contains the letter "c," indicating it hangs from the "ceiling." In contrast, "Stalagmite" contains the letter "g," suggesting it grows from the "ground."
While both formations grow very slowly, Stalactites generally have a slower growth rate than Stalagmites due to the retention of water which travels a longer distance before evaporating. Stalagmites, being closer to the drip source, can accumulate deposits more rapidly.
Sometimes, when a Stalactite and a Stalagmite grow long enough to meet, they form a column or pillar in the cave. This union results from the continuous deposition of minerals from both above and below.

Comparison Chart


Hangs from the ceiling
Rises from the floor


Formed by dripping water from the ceiling
Formed by dripping water on the floor

Growth Direction


Memory Aid

Contains "c" for "ceiling"
Contains "g" for "ground"

Growth Rate

Generally slower due to water retention
Typically faster due to proximity to drip source

Compare with Definitions


A limestone structure formed by dripping calcium-rich water.
Over millennia, the constant dripping formed the Stalactite.


A rock structure resembling a mound or pillar.
The Stalagmite looked like a statue sculpted by nature.


A formation resembling an icicle made of rock.
I was amazed by the long Stalactite hanging above me.


A mineral formation rising from the cave floor.
The Stalagmite stood tall, reaching towards the ceiling.


A speleothem that grows downward.
The Stalactite was illuminated, casting a shadow below.


A limestone deposit formed by evaporating calcium-rich water.
Water dripped onto the floor, gradually creating the Stalagmite.


A mineral deposit hanging from cave ceilings.
The cave was adorned with beautiful Stalactites.


A cave feature originating from ground-based mineral buildup.
The Stalagmite's growth indicated the age of the cave.


A cave feature resulting from mineral deposition.
The guide explained the difference between a Stalactite and a Stalagmite.


A stalagmite (UK: , US: ; from the Greek σταλαγμίτης – stalagmitês, from σταλαγμίας – stalagmias, "dropping, trickling") is a type of rock formation that rises from the floor of a cave due to the accumulation of material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings. Stalagmites are typically composed of calcium carbonate, but may consist of lava, mud, peat, pitch, sand, sinter and amberat (crystallized urine of pack rats).The corresponding formation hanging down from the ceiling of a cave is a stalactite.


A stalactite (UK: , US: ; from the Greek stalasso, (σταλάσσω), "to drip", and meaning "that which drips") is a mineral formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves, hot springs, or man-made structures such as bridges and mines. Any material that is soluble and that can be deposited as a colloid, or is in suspension, or is capable of being melted, may form a stalactite.


A mound or tapering column rising from the floor of a cave, formed of calcium salts deposited by dripping water and often uniting with a stalactite.


A tapering structure hanging like an icicle from the roof of a cave, formed of calcium salts deposited by dripping water.


A conical mineral deposit, usually calcite or aragonite, built up on the floor of a cavern, formed from the dripping of mineral-rich water.


An icicle-shaped mineral deposit, usually calcite or aragonite, hanging from the roof of a cavern, formed from the dripping of mineral-rich water.


(geology) A secondary mineral deposit of calcium carbonate or other mineral, in shapes similar to icicles, that lies on the ground of a cave.


(geology) A secondary mineral deposit of calcium carbonate or another mineral, in shapes similar to icicles, that hangs from the roof of a cave.


A deposit more or less resembling an inverted stalactite, formed by calcareous water dropping on the floors of caverns; hence, a similar deposit of other material.


A pendent cone or cylinder of calcium carbonate resembling an icicle in form and mode of attachment. Stalactites are found depending from the roof or sides of caverns, and are produced by deposition from waters which have percolated through, and partially dissolved, the overlying limestone rocks.


A cylinder of calcium carbonate projecting upward from the floor of a limestone cave


A cylinder of calcium carbonate hanging from the roof of a limestone cave


A speleothem growing in an upward direction.
The Stalagmite seemed to compete with the Stalactite above.

Common Curiosities

How do Stalagmites form?

Stalagmites form when water dripping from above evaporates, leaving mineral deposits on the cave floor.

Do Stalactites always hang from cave ceilings?

Yes, Stalactites hang from ceilings, while Stalagmites rise from the floor.

Which grows faster, a Stalactite or a Stalagmite?

Generally, Stalagmites grow faster due to their proximity to the drip source.

Are Stalactites made of ice?

No, Stalactites are mineral formations, but they can resemble icicles in shape.

Can a Stalactite and Stalagmite merge?

Yes, if they grow long enough to meet, they can form a column or pillar.

Are there any famous caves known for their Stalactites?

Yes, many caves, like the Carlsbad Caverns in the U.S., are renowned for their Stalactites.

Do Stalactites only form in limestone caves?

While common in limestone caves, Stalactites can form in other caves with mineral-rich water.

Can human activity damage Stalagmites?

Yes, touching or breaking can damage Stalagmites and halt their growth.

Is it possible to estimate a cave's age based on Stalagmites?

While not precise, the size and growth rate of Stalagmites can provide age clues.

What minerals make up a Stalactite?

Stalactites are primarily composed of calcium carbonate from dripping water.

Are Stalagmites unique to specific caves?

Stalagmites can form in any cave with the right mineral-rich water and conditions.

What color are Stalagmites?

Stalagmites can vary in color, depending on the minerals present.

What factors affect the growth of a Stalactite?

Drip rate, mineral content, and environmental conditions influence Stalactite growth.

How long does it take for a Stalactite to form?

It can take thousands to millions of years, depending on environmental conditions.

What causes the unique shapes of Stalagmites?

The drip pattern, mineral content, and cave airflow contribute to Stalagmite shapes.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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