Lava is molten or partially molten rock (magma) that has been expelled from the interior of a terrestrial planet (such as Earth) or a moon onto its surface. Lava may be erupted at a volcano or through a fracture in the crust, on land or underwater, usually at temperatures from 800 to 1,200 °C (1,470 to 2,190 °F). The volcanic rock resulting from subsequent cooling is also often called lava.
A lava flow is an outpouring of lava during an effusive eruption. (An explosive eruption, by contrast, produces a mixture of volcanic ash and other fragments called tephra, not lava flows.) The viscosity of most lava is about that of ketchup, roughly 10,000 to 100,000 times that of water. Even so, lava can flow great distances before cooling causes it to solidify, because lava exposed to air quickly develops a solid crust that insulates the remaining liquid lava, helping to keep it hot and inviscid enough to continue flowing.
The word lava comes from Italian and is probably derived from the Latin word labes, which means a fall or slide. An early use of the word in connection with extrusion of magma from below the surface is found in a short account of the 1737 eruption of Vesuvius, written by Francesco Serao, who described "a flow of fiery lava" as an analogy to the flow of water and mud down the flanks of the volcano (a lahar) after heavy rain.