Differences Between Magma and Lava

Before going into the difference between magma and lava, it is important that you understand them individually. Furthermore, you must also note a few related details to have a better understanding of their difference.

Magma: Definition, Composition and Types

The severely hot semi-liquid and liquid rock present in the earth’s crust is termed as magma. Moreover, the planet earth consists of different layers, namely – inner core, outer core, mantle and crust. While understanding magma definition, you must note it is significantly present in earth’s mantle. However, this molten material propels through cracks and holes in the exterior surface, which creates a volcanic emission. 

A few related highlights are as follows.

  • Magma is composed of minerals. 

  • It contains dissolved gases like carbon dioxide, water vapour and sulphur in small amounts.

  • Magma remains in a liquid state due to high pressure and extreme temperature below the earth’s crust.

  • Magma is classified into three main types such as basaltic, rhyolitic and andesitic and each of these types have a distinct composition of minerals.

  • Silicon dioxide is present in a considerable amount in all kinds of magma.

Basaltic magma: High concentrations of iron, calcium and magnesium are present in basaltic magma. But, it has low amounts of sodium and potassium. Moreover, the temperature of basaltic magma ranges from 1832°F to 2192°F.

Rhyolitic magma: In rhyolitic magma sodium and potassium is available in more significant amounts, but calcium, magnesium and iron are present in low quantities. Its temperature varies from 1202°F to 1472°F.

Andesitic magma: This type of magma contains moderate percentages of sodium, potassium, calcium and iron, and has a temperature ranging from 1472°F to 1832°F. However, the flowing property of magma depends on the mineral composition and temperature of the same.

Lava Definition, Composition And Types

The molten rock, when it reaches the surface of the earth becomes lava. It has a temperature ranging from 700 °C to 1200 °C (which is 1300 °F to 2200 °F). Moreover, the material of lava can be entirely free-flowing like fluids. But it can also be very stiff.

A few highlights related to lava are as follows.

  • The higher the amount of silica present in lava, the more is its viscosity (thickness).

  • Lava is a mixture of silicate minerals like olivine, amphibole, quartz, mica, feldspar and pyroxene.

  • The composition as mentioned above, shows the behaviour of lava rather than its temperature during an eruption.

  • Lava flow can be distinguished into three fundamental types – aa lava flow, pahoehoe lava flow and blocky lava flow. The aa flow contains free lumps of pointed lava pieces, whereas pahoehoe flow is relatively smooth. On the other hand, blocky flow is more or less similar to aa flow. But, it is comparatively more viscous.

Next, take a look at the difference between magma and lava represented in a tabular form.

Differences between Magma and Lava

Magma vs Lava

Basis of comparison





The molten fluid that comes out of the earth’s crust from the holes and cracks

The molten material that remains under the surface of the earth


Lava temperature is slightly less hot and varies between (1300 to 2200) °F

Magma temperature is slightly more hot and varies between (1300 to 2400) °F

Cooling property

The cooling property of lava is faster than that of magma. As a result, sometimes lava crystalizes into glass particles.

On the other hand, magma requires a considerable amount of time to cool down. Due to this reason, magma gives rise to huge crystals.

Origination of the term

The term lava comes from Italian language

The term magma comes from Ancient Greek

Do It Yourself

  1. What is the primary point of magma and lava difference?

(a) Temperature (b) Colour (c) Location (d) Composition

  1. What is the difference in composition of magma and lava?

(a) Magma is gaseous in nature and lava is hard like solid

(b) Lava is liquid and magma is solid in nature

(c) Dissolved gases are present in magma and absent in lava

(d) No difference

  1. What is the molten rock called when it reaches earth’s crust?

(a) Mauna (b) Lava (c) Magma (d) Cinder

By going through the above discussion, you must have understood what is the difference between magma and lava. For more related topics, download our Vedantu app today and access not only related study material, but online classes too.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Briefly define what is magma and lava?

Magma consists of molten rock that is found below the surface of earth. Furthermore, to define lava, it can be said that the molten material reaches the surface of the planet.

2. Mention the three main kinds of magma.

Three fundamental types of magma are andesitic, basaltic and rhyolitic.

3. Are lava and magma the same thing?

Location is the factor that distinguishes between lava and magma. Also, the molten rock that remains trapped is magma. Lava is the molten rock when it reaches the planet’s crust.