Classic theories of hearing have considered only a translational component (piston-like component) of the stapes motion as being the effective stimulus for cochlear activation and thus the sensation of hearing. Our previous study [Huber, A.M., Sequeira, D., Breuninger, C., Eiber, A., 2008. The effects of complex stapes motion on the response of the cochlea. Otol. Neurotol. 29: 1187–1192.] qualitatively showed that rotational components around the long and short axes of the footplate (rocking-like components) lead to cochlear activation as well. In this study, the contribution of the piston-like and rocking-like components of the stapes motion to cochlea activation was quantitatively investigated with measurements in live guinea pigs and a related mathematical description. The isolated stapes in anesthetized guinea pigs was stimulated by a three-axis piezoelectric actuator, and 3-D motions of the stapes and compound action potential (CAP) of the cochlea were measured simultaneously. The measured values were used to fit a hypothesis of the CAP as a linear combination of the logarithms of the piston-like and rocking-like components. Both the piston-like and rocking-like components activate cochlear responses when they exceed certain thresholds. These thresholds as well as the relation between CAP and intensity of the motion component were different for piston-like and rocking-like components. The threshold was found to be higher and the sensitivity lower for the rocking-like component than the corresponding values for the piston-like component. The influence of the rocking-like component was secondary in cases of piston-dominant motions of the stapes although it may become significant for low amplitudes of the piston-like component.