continental drift


Definition of continental drift

: a slow movement of the continents on a deep-seated viscous zone within the earth — compare plate tectonics

Examples of continental drift in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web When continental drift broke Pangaea apart, the ginkgo vanished from North America. Clive Thompson, The Atlantic, "The Struggle to Save City Trees," 9 Oct. 2020 Two hundred million years ago, with the continental drift? Marion Renault, The New Republic, "The Paradox of the Burmese Python," 6 Oct. 2020 Natural selection depends on unpredictable mutations, and once a species emerges, its fate can be influenced by all sorts of forces, from viral outbreaks to continental drift, volcanic eruptions and asteroid impacts. Quanta Magazine, "The New Science of Evolutionary Forecasting," 17 July 2014 The transient weather, the forces reshaping the world every day, but also the permanent nature of continental drift and how this all fits together, the enormity of it. Anchorage Daily News, "50 astronauts, in their own words," 23 June 2019 But many scientists still found the expanding Earth hypothesis more plausible than the theory of continental drift, which remained radical until the end of World War II. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "We’ve Been Wrong Before: The Expanding Earth Theory," 3 Aug. 2018 John Tuzo Wilson developed plate tectonics between 1962 and 1968 and thus explained continental drift and the constant reshaping of the earth’s surface. David Wootton, WSJ, "‘Origin Story’ Review: The View From Above," 18 May 2018 This discovery helped transform the controversial notion of continental drift into the far more powerful and explanatory theory of plate tectonics. The Economist, "Sing a song of sonar," 10 Mar. 2018 Scientists also were trying to resolve debates about continental drift, the idea that continents slowly move along Earth’s surface. Gary Robbins,, "Walter Munk's 100th birthday stirs memories of Scripps golden era," 1 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'continental drift.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of continental drift

1926, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of continental drift was in 1926

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Last Updated

19 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Continental drift.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for continental drift

continental drift


English Language Learners Definition of continental drift

technical : the very slow movement of the continents on the surface of the Earth

More from Merriam-Webster on continental drift Encyclopedia article about continental drift

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