Difference Between Magma and Lava

We all have come across these two terms while studying geography. Magma and lava both are related to volcanoes. Both being closely related often causes confusion to many. Basically, magma and lava are made of the same things. They get distinguished based on their location. If you want to clear your concept, read on to satisfy your curiosity.

Magma vs Lava

The main difference between magma and lava is that magma is molten rock that stays beneath the surface of the earth, whereas magma is called lava once it comes out of the earth’s surface due to eruption. As a result, it is also known as liquid magma. Magma is much hotter than lava and also takes more time to cool down. The components present in lava escalate its cooling process.

Magma and Lava

Magma signifies the molten rock mixture that prevails under the earth’s crust. Magma is extremely hot and takes a lot of time to cool down, but when it cools down, at last, it takes the form of plutonic rock. Nowadays, the heat and pressure of the magma get used to generate power.

When magma finds cracks and holds, it comes out of the surface of the earth, and that is called lava. The thickness of lava decides the scale of damage. Just like magma, lava gets cool too gradually, and it also takes lesser time than magma. The semi-solid substance that comes out of the volcano is marked as lava.

Comparison Table Between Magma and Lava

Parameters of ComparisonMagmaLava
Definition When molten rock stays under the surface of the earth, it is called magma.When molten rock or magma erupts and comes out of the surface of the earth, it is called lava.
ContentMagma consists of rocks that turn to liquid due to heat.Lava consists of molten rocks and different gases.
TemperatureMagma’s temperature varies from 1300 F to 2400 F. The temperature of lava varies from 1300 F to 2200 degrees F.
Cooled formIf magma cools down under the surface of the earth, it becomes plutonic rock.After the eruption, when lava cools down, it becomes volcanic rocks.
EtymologyMagma got its root from the Greek language.Lava got its root from the Italian language.

What is Magma?

The extreme heat that persists in the core of the earth is capable of liquidizing the solid substance. This semi-solid blend of different minerals and gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur prevails underground. The primary idea of magma is that the extremely hot melted mixture that stays underneath the earth’s surface.

If you are wondering how the underground magma comes out of a volcano, then here is the answer, magma finds cracks and gaps that leads it towards the volcano. As we know, the earth is situated on different plates. These plates are accommodated properly, but at times they clash with one another, which causes friction. While clashing, if these plates come under or over the other, then the magma gets its way to come up. This created pressure gets released by volcanos. Volcanoes work exactly like the safety valves of a pressure cooker. Volcanoes release the extra pressure and temperature that gets built up under the earth.

What is Lava?

Lava is nothing new but a term for magma that comes out to the exterior of the earth. Magma stays inside the earth and, at times, comes out of the volcanoes. The mixture of molten rock that comes out of volcanoes gets declared as lava. Lava can be called a semi-solid substance that is boiling hot and capable of causing a catastrophe. As it is neither liquid nor solid and the thickness depends on the substance, lava gets classified into three different types based on its viscosity.

As stated before, lava is a very hot substance. Its temperature can vary from 1300 to 2200 Fahrenheit. It gets cool down, and once it becomes cold, it evolves into other forms. At times it becomes crystal, and it is also capable of becoming volcanic rocks.

Main Differences Between Magma and Lava

  1. Magma lies under the crust of the earth, but and magma becomes lava when it comes out of the earth’s crust due to eruption.
  2. Magma is a Greek word. It comes from an ancient word that used to signify ‘thick unguent’, whereas lava got its origin from Italy.
  3. Magma takes much more time to cool down than lava. Lava takes much less time to cool down due to its gases.
  4. When magma cools down, it becomes plutonic rock, for instance, granite, but lava can not make plutonic rock after cooling down. It takes the form of volcanic rocks, like basalt.
  5. Magma can turn itself into huge crystals, and lava, on the other hand, can get crystalized to become glasses.
  6. The temperature of magma is hotter than lava, although the difference is not huge, yet it makes a difference.
  7. One can find dissolved gases in magma, but they are not present in lava.
Difference Between Magma and Lava


The main difference between magma and lava lies in the fact that they reside in different places. Essentially, they are the same thing, but they get different connotations based on their location. The deeper we go into the earth, the more heat it increases deliberately. The centre of the earth is so hot that it melts rocks, and these molten rocks are called magma. Once the eruption of the volcano takes place, the hot magma comes out of the earth’s surface and gets known as lava.

Both forms other components of the earth in order to enrich it as soon they cool down. However, lava can cause great catastrophe. All of us are aware of the tragic history of Pompeii caused by Mount Vesuvius’s devastating eruption.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X09002805
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X15006664
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