con·​tin·​u·​al kən-ˈtin-yü-əl How to pronounce continual (audio)
: continuing indefinitely in time without interruption
continual fear
: recurring in steady usually rapid succession
a history of continual invasions

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. 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."

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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Invariably, the weather generated more discussion about the continual warming of the globe and its increasingly devastating impacts. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 June 2024 Kathleen Kennedy is addressing the continual struggle faced by the women of the Star Wars franchise. Tommy McArdle, Peoplemag, 30 May 2024 That’s what makes some players great, the continual striving for perfection. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 24 May 2024 Photo : Range Rover Revolution of 1995 The first-generation Range Rover was sold for nearly 25 years, with continual small improvements but no major redesigns. Bob Sorokanich, Robb Report, 22 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for continual 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'continual.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near continual

Cite this Entry

“Continual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


con·​tin·​u·​al kən-ˈtin-yə(-wə)l How to pronounce continual (audio)
: continuing without interruption
days of continual sunshine
: occurring again and again within short intervals
continual interruptions

More from Merriam-Webster on continual

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