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Where did the term "volcano" come from?

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Welcome to CoreFacts, where we're always short on time and big on science. I'm Steve Sobieszczyk. Let's get right to it, today's question is:

Where did the term "volcano" come from?

The word "volcano" comes from the little island of Vulcano (with a U) in the Mediterranean Sea off Sicily. Centuries ago, the people living in this area believed that Vulcano (with a U) was the chimney of the forge of Vulcan -- the blacksmith of the Roman gods. They thought that the hot lava fragments and clouds of dust erupting form Vulcano (with a U) came from Vulcan's forge as he beat out thunderbolts for Jupiter, king of the gods, and weapons for Mars, the god of war. In Polynesia the people attributed eruptive activity to the beautiful but wrathful Pele, Goddess of Volcanoes, whenever she was angry or spiteful. Today we know that volcanic eruptions are not super-natural but can be studied and interpreted by scientists.

And now you know. Join us again every weekday for a new CoreFact. For other CoreFacts, or for CoreCast, our in-depth science podcast, go to usgs.gov/podcasts. We are still happily accepting your science questions, so if you're curious about something that we can answer, send us an email at corefacts@usgs.gov or leave a voicemail at 703-648-5600, long distance fees apply.

The USGS CoreFacts is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.

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Title: Where did the term "volcano" come from?

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Date Recorded: 3/21/2008


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