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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The more intense care required at this age — diapering, bottle feeding — also can’t be done without almost continual close contact and requires more adults per child, increasing the inherent risk. Marshall Allen, ProPublica, "What Parents Should Know About Coronavirus as Kids Return to Babysitters, Day Cares and Camps," 23 May 2020 Her continual presence on these stages and others, including the South by Southwest Film Festival, was a defining element of her legacy as a fixture of the independent filmmaking community. cleveland, "Lynn Shelton 1965-2020: Director of ‘Humpday’ and ‘Sword of Trust,’ found beauty in human imperfection," 18 May 2020 However, these shipments will have to be continual for this to be even a medium-term solution. NBC News, "Industry executive: White House plan to send a week's worth of masks, gloves to nursing homes is not enough," 21 Apr. 2020 The change was continual, as later happened only in the cavity of the mind. Roberto Calasso, Harper's Magazine, "Becoming Human," 30 Mar. 2020 The song's recent (and seemingly continual) surge in popularity can also be seen through its growing download and stream totals over the years. Bobby Olivier, Billboard, "The Evolution of Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now': How a Minor Hit Became One of The Band's Most Beloved (And Inescapable) Songs," 6 Mar. 2019 But the ever-presence of isolation, which Gould represented by a continual backdrop of breaking waves, inhibits creativity, all energy going into survival. Los Angeles Times, "Commentary: Glenn Gould’s decades-old radio documentaries still resonate. Podcasters, take note," 22 Apr. 2020 Since March 12, when the UIL suspended the boys basketball state tournament during the semifinals in San Antonio, the timeline for a return to sports — and to normalcy in daily life — has been in continual limbo. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, "UIL and TAPPS cancel remainder of 2020 spring sports seasons, an unprecedented move amid coronavirus pandemic," 17 Apr. 2020 Patrick Crakes, a former executive with Fox Sports who now works as an industry consultant, said the continual ratings drop during the regular season was not unexpected. David Barron,, "XFL not expected to return in 2021," 10 Apr. 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.

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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

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Time Traveler for continual

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for continual

Last Updated

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Continual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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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

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Comments on continual

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