con·​tin·​u·​al | \ kən-ˈtin-yü-əl How to pronounce continual (audio) , -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

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 These creators have put their own stamp on zombies by taking the trappings of the genre — the undead horde, the blows to the head and the continual fleeing — and wrapping it up with social commentary on issues like class and government ineptitude. NBC News, "How South Korean cinema is breathing new life into the zombie genre," 5 Oct. 2020 Check back here throughout the day for continual updates on announcements made and sermons delivered. David Noyce, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Latest from LDS General Conference: Sunday sessions to begin after a day of talks ripped from today’s headlines," 4 Oct. 2020 The continual attacks on the University need to stop. Anchorage Daily News, "Candidate Q&A: Alaska Senate District 19 — Geran Tarr," 3 Oct. 2020 Relatives spoke of her youth and bemoaned continual gun violence. Peter Nickeas,, "Relatives gather for Dajore Wilson funeral: ‘She brought joy and happiness to everyone she encountered’," 18 Sep. 2020 Walk-in Access (WIA): With continual increases in private land enrollments, this state program is becoming large enough to positively affect hunters’ experiences. Star Tribune, "2020 is a year for the birds in Minnesota, as pheasants shine," 12 Sep. 2020 Magnolia also maintains continual cleaning, including a deep clean each night, single-use menus, floor markers to encourage distancing, one-way flow through buildings when possible and reduced seating. Georgia Slater,, "Joanna Gaines' Fall Theme for Magnolia Market Is Unexpected - and Gorgeous," 11 Sep. 2020 Ute believes competitive balance is still a work in progress that must be evaluated on a continual basis. Matt Goul, cleveland, "New OHSAA executive director Doug Ute: ‘Full steam ahead’ for winter sports," 9 Sep. 2020 No one in the office of Portland Commissioner Jo AnnHardesty, who has championed it and introduced the successful proposals to fund it, replied to questions last weekabout why the program is further delayed or what is driving the continual setbacks. oregonlive, "Much-touted alternative first responder program now expected to launch a year late," 9 Sep. 2020

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 continuel, borrowed from Anglo-French, probably from continu continuous + -el, going back to Latin -ālis -al entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about continual

Time Traveler for continual

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about continual

Statistics for continual

Last Updated

18 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Continual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for continual


How to pronounce continual (audio)

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 How to pronounce continual (audio) \

Kids Definition of continual

1 : going on or lasting without stopping 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

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!