Is there a good mnemonic for remembering the difference between "stalactite" (hangs down) and "stalagmite" (points up)?

  • you are well loved. Four answers in under half an hour! – Jimi Oke Dec 23 '10 at 3:32
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    Either he's well-loved, or there's just a lot of mnemonic-loving people hanging around... :) – user730 Dec 23 '10 at 3:46
  • Yeah... sometimes it is hard to gauge one's own motives. – Cerberus Dec 23 '10 at 3:50
  • @J. M. - Touche! @Cerberus - Indeed, that is so! – Jimi Oke Dec 23 '10 at 4:00
  • Tights ('tites) come down. – Waggers Nov 20 '15 at 10:10

10 Answers 10


Here is one from my secondary school geography teacher that I will never forget:

stalactite --- ceiling

stalagmite --- ground

Stalactites hang from the ceiling; stalagmites rise from the ground.

As long as you remember what c and g mean in those words, you will never confuse them!

  • @ShreevatsaR: Cool! Now that I think about it, I'm not too sure if this was from my teacher or from a classmate, but, whatever. It was still back in the good old days I learned about yardangs, barchans, and other features I'd never set my eyes on. – Jimi Oke Dec 23 '10 at 5:58
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    I learned stalactites cling to the ceiling; stalagmites grow from the ground. Reinforces that even more. – Kate Gregory Apr 18 '12 at 12:21
  • @Kate: Awesome! That's definitely more like it! – Jimi Oke Apr 20 '12 at 10:32

Stalac tites have to hold on tight! (So they don't fall off...)


Let me give you another mnemonic, closer to the heart of some:

Stalactite = tit

Stalagmite = you already remembered the tit one

This is how we remember it in Dutch, in which language it actually rhymes: stalactiet - tiet.

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    So you're saying the tits are up top, and everything else is incidental? – Jon Purdy Dec 23 '10 at 4:35
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    Hehe, well, basically... but tits generally hang down most of the time on most mammals. – Cerberus Dec 23 '10 at 4:42
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    I was VERY tempted to give this one the check mark... if only the British didn't have the expression "tits up" (which means things have gone horribly wrong, so "tits down" is presumably good... but that's a long chain for a mnemonic) – barrycarter Dec 23 '10 at 4:46
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    Dunno about y'all, but my tits point horizontally. Except when I'm lying down, in which case they point up. So this mnemonic would, at best, be useless; at worst, it would cause me to always get it wrong. – Marthaª Dec 23 '10 at 8:41
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    Perhaps the crucial point to some mnemonics is to accept them at face value because they seem right at the moment of acceptance, even though one might later realize that they were nonsense - but then they'd have already done their job. Whatever the case, to go into the matter a bit more: I believe that gravity affects tits by exerting a downward force on them when they are pointing horizontally - the normal situation -, so that perhaps it could be said that they hang down after all - especially at middle age, if I am not misinformed. Please erase, this is going on too far. – Cerberus Dec 29 '10 at 5:26

"When mites crawl up, they pull their tights down." That's how I always remembered it...

  • Ah, that's a good one. – Jimi Oke Dec 23 '10 at 3:28
  • The saying I was taught was similar. It was something about pulling tights up, so I just remember that you pull tights up and that's where stalactites are. – jhocking Apr 10 '11 at 2:05

Stalactites hold tight to the ceiling, and Stalagmites might grow to meet them.

  • +1 Ah, I've also heard this one. Nice! – Jimi Oke Dec 23 '10 at 17:26
  • That's the one I've always used. – Pitarou Apr 18 '12 at 13:50

Stalagmites might reach the roof. Stalactites have to hold on tight!

  • You might trip over a stalagmite. – David Schwartz Jun 20 '12 at 0:18

Look to the shape of the capital letter: stalag M ite vs stalac T ite


Stalactites are st(l)uck tight to the ceiling.

Stalagmites are the other one.


Stalactite has the "lact" root in it meaning "milk", because, well, hanging from the cave roofs, they look like the thing on women's body that gives milk. All I need to do is think about lactating women.

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    I was right: spelunking IS a dirty word. – barrycarter Dec 25 '10 at 16:28
  • Is that true? Or just a handy mnemonic. – Pitarou Apr 18 '12 at 13:52

'Stalagmites' contains the German word 'Stalag' (camp) which is better located on the floor of the cave. Stalactites are the other deposits on the ceiling of the cave.

protected by RegDwigнt Apr 18 '12 at 11:00

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