con·​tin·​u·​al | \kən-ˈtin-yü-əl, -yəl\

Definition of continual 

1 : continuing indefinitely in time without interruption continual fear

2 : recurring in steady usually rapid succession a history of continual invasions

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from continual

continually adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for continual

continual, continuous, constant, incessant, perpetual, perennial mean characterized by continued occurrence or recurrence. continual often implies a close prolonged succession or recurrence. continual showers the whole weekend continuous usually implies an uninterrupted flow or spatial extension. football's oldest continuous rivalry constant implies uniform or persistent occurrence or recurrence. lived in constant pain incessant implies ceaseless or uninterrupted activity. annoyed by the incessant quarreling perpetual suggests unfailing repetition or lasting duration. a land of perpetual snowfall perennial implies enduring existence often through constant renewal. a perennial source of controversy

Did You Know?

Since the mid-19th century, many grammarians have drawn a distinction between continual and continuous. Continual should only mean "occurring at regular intervals," they insist, whereas continuous should be used to mean "continuing without interruption." This distinction overlooks the fact that continual is the older word and was used with both meanings for centuries before continuous appeared on the scene. The prescribed sense of continuous became established only in the 19th century, and it never succeeded in completely driving out the equivalent sense of continual. Today, continual is the more likely of the two to mean "recurring," but it also continues to be used, as it has been since the 14th century, with the meaning "continuing without interruption."

Examples of continual in a Sentence

This week we experienced days of continual sunshine. The country has been in a continual state of war since it began fighting for its independence. The continual interruptions by the student were annoying the teacher.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Seattle has been virtually the only city in the country to see continual growth in transit ridership over the last several years. David Gutman, The Seattle Times, "King County Metro named nation’s top public transportation agency," 6 Aug. 2018 Loud, vicious, aggressive, abusive, intimidating, angry, hostile, or continual swearing is never, ever acceptable in any society. Gully Wells, Town & Country, "Elegant Expletives: A Socialite's Guide to the F-Bomb," 7 Aug. 2014 Those of you with slower PCs may not want to enable the feature, because of the additional strain continual indexing can place on a hard drive. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Hints of Windows 10's 2019 future show up in early '19H1' builds," 6 Nov. 2018 American history can be seen as a continual struggle to keep this promise—to extend respect to all types of difference and to honor the sanctity of every individual. WSJ, "The Paradox of American Anti-Semitism," 2 Nov. 2018 The fire, one of nearly 20 blazes burning across the Golden State, has been fought by aircraft making continual dumps of water and bright pink retardant on the blaze to protect Lake Elsinore and other foothill communities near the flames. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "California's Holy Fire erupts in dramatic time-lapse video, cooler weather aids firefighters," 13 Aug. 2018 From the pasta necklace made for Meghan by a fan, to the spiral Tattoo Pendant that represents New Zealand, Meghan's tour jewelry has been a continual showstopper. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle's Unique Necklace Is a Symbol of Strength and Integrity," 31 Oct. 2018 Although there's always going to be shade of red that's best suited for your skin tone, Ruby Woo has received continual praise for its universally flattering coloring. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "What M.A.C.’s Ruby Woo Lipstick Looks Like on 16 Different Skin Tones," 11 Oct. 2018 Then continual rainfall in June kept mosquito control agencies from implementing larva control measures. Vikki Ortiz,, "Chicagoland mosquito fighters struggle to keep up with this summer's surge of blood suckers," 11 July 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of continual

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for continual

Middle English, from Anglo-French continuel, from Latin continuus continuous

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about continual

Listen to Our Podcast about continual

Statistics for continual

Last Updated

10 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for continual

The first known use of continual was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for continual



English Language Learners Definition of continual

: happening without interruption : not stopping or ending

: happening again and again within short periods of time


con·​tin·​u·​al | \kən-ˈtin-yə-wəl \

Kids Definition of continual

1 : going on or lasting without stop On every side there rose a continual chattering.— Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill

2 : occurring again and again within short periods of time Your continual interruptions are annoying.

Other Words from continual

continually adverb

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on continual

What made you want to look up continual? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!