adjective con·tin·u·al \ kən-ˈtin-yü-əl , -yəl \
|Updated on: 6 Aug 2018

Definition of continual

1 : continuing indefinitely in time without interruption
  • continual fear
2 : recurring in steady usually rapid succession
  • a history of continual invasions



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Examples of continual in a Sentence

  1. This week we experienced days of continual sunshine.

  2. The country has been in a continual state of war since it began fighting for its independence.

  3. The continual interruptions by the student were annoying the teacher.

Recent Examples of continual from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of continual

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

CONTINUAL Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of continual for English Language Learners

  • : happening without interruption : not stopping or ending

  • : happening again and again within short periods of time

CONTINUAL Defined for Kids


adjective con·tin·u·al \ kən-ˈtin-yə-wəl \

Definition of continual for Students

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.



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