What are Igneous Rocks?


The word igneous is derived from the Latin word ‘ignis’ meaning fire.  Igneous rocks are formed by the cooling of highly heated molten fluid material, known as magma.

It requires a greater quantity of heat to melt the rocks under overlying pressure than at the surface.

Magma forms at different depths not exceeding 40 km.

When magma is ejected to the surface, it is called lava.

These rocks are formed from solidified molten magma below or on the earth’s surface.

These are called the parent of all rocks or the ‘primary rocks’.

In simple words, all rocks can be described as of igneous origin because, at one time or another, they erupted to the surface.

About 95% of the volume of outermost 16 km of the earth is composed of them.

These are largely hard and massive because of their magmatic origin and are crystalline in appearances.

On the basis of their mode of occurrence, igneous rocks can be classified as – extrusive or volcanic rocks and intrusive rocks.

Extrusive igneous rocks

These rocks are formed by the cooling of lava on the earth’s surface.

As lava cools very rapidly on coming out of the hot interior of the earth, the mineral crystals forming these rocks are very fine.

These rocks are also called volcanic rocks.

Gabbro and basalt are very common examples of such rocks. 

Deccan plateau’s regur soil in India is derived from lava.


Intrusive igneous rocks

These rocks are formed when magma solidifies below the earth’s surface.

The rate of cooling below the earth’s surface is very slow which gives rise to the formation of large crystals in the rocks.

Deep-seated intrusive rocks are termed as plutonic rocks and shallow depth intrusive rocks are termed as hypabyssal.

Granite and dolerite are common examples of intrusive rocks.

The huge blocks of coarse granitic rocks are found both in the Himalaya and the Deccan Plateau.

Common forms of intrusive igneous rocks are batholiths, sills, and dykes, etc.

Batholiths are huge masses of solidified magma.

They vary in size; some are as much as several hundred kilometers across and thousands of kilometers thick.

They generally form the core of the major mountains.

Sill is the horizontal intrusion of solidified magma between the layers of preexisting rocks.

Dyke is similarly a more or less vertical formation from few meters to several kilometers in length and from few centimeters to hundreds of meters in thickness.


Acidic and Basic rocks

On the basis of chemical properties, igneous rocks are classified into acidic and basic rocks.

These are formed as a result of solidification of acidic or basic lava.

Acidic igneous rocks are composed of 65% or more of silica.

These rocks are light coloured, hard and very strong.

Granite is an example of an acidic rock.

Basic igneous rocks contain less than 55% of silica and have more iron and magnesium.

These rocks are dark coloured and weak enough for weathering.

Gabbro, basalt, and dolerite are examples of basic rocks.