What's the difference between "rock" and "stone"?


A rock is bigger, possibly immovable, you couldn't throw it with one hand, at a pinch you might be able to with two. alt text

Above, a Google Image result for "Rock", below, for "Stone"

alt text

Note that a boulder is probably bigger than a rock1.

Below, a boulder

alt text

Oh, also note that rocks and boulders are made from stone.

(This answer is mildly tongue in cheek)

1 Notable exception: Uluru/Ayre's Rock.

  • 3
    haha am i the only one that finds the first and last pictures just funny in this context? – Claudiu Nov 30 '10 at 15:34
  • 1
    @Claudiu, to be honest I don't find them funny. Why? – b.roth Nov 30 '10 at 15:52
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    I'm with @Bruno Rothgiesser: I don't know why @Benjol has labeled his answer as tongue-in-cheek, and I don't know why the pictures might be funny. If there's a joke in here somewhere, it's hiding from me. – Marthaª Nov 30 '10 at 17:33
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    It's just like... imagine someone asks "Hey what is the difference between a stone and a rock?" then you say "a rock is bigger" and slam down a huge rock in front of him, saying "see?". i actually didn't realize he labeled his answer tongue in cheek until you pointed it out, i just smiled. also just the way it's positioned in that first picture.. its so unremarkable. literally like "Here's a rock." – Claudiu Nov 30 '10 at 18:28
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    Stone is of Germanic origin, rock is of Romance origin. That's the real difference. English has many synonyms due to words from different sources. – GEdgar Feb 24 '12 at 1:29

Generally, usage has made the two words completely interchangeable. However, I would use stone to refer to the stuff from which rocks are made.

  • His house is made of stone.

is probably better than

  • His house is made of rock.


  • He built his house out of stones.

is as acceptable as

  • He built his house out of rocks.
  • 1
    Stone tends to be the human altered (cut or treated) substance or building material - rock is the material in a natural context more often. eg: "Rock strata" in mineralogy and hydrology, but dressed stone building (rather than hewn rock or cut rock building). Interesting patterns of use... – shermy Jan 5 '14 at 4:59

I'm not sure that I would ever refer to "a rock". To me, "rock" is a substance - I recognise "a rock" but think of it as a principally American word. I do talk about "a stone" as well as "stone" - "stone" is the substance which has been, or may be, used for building.

  • 2
    so it was Americans who named the Rock of Gibraltar? – Peter Shor Feb 24 '12 at 12:27

protected by RegDwigнt Feb 24 '12 at 11:01

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