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

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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 An affirmative answer needs to be supported by clear unquestioned data—a rarity in science, but the continual quest of scientific exploration. WSJ, 15 Oct. 2021 The first path demands continual honing, shaping, burrowing: a never-ending pursuit of the elemental. Susan Dominus Photographs By Joshua Kissi Styled By Ian Bradley Sasha Weiss Photographs By Collier Schorr Styled By Jay Massacret Megan O’grady Portrait By Mickalene Thomas And Racquel Chevremont Ligaya Mishan Photographs By Tina Barney, New York Times, 14 Oct. 2021 Despite a continual barrage of harassment, threats, violence and even murders, the newspaper has continued to publish. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 9 Oct. 2021 Both Muratov and Ressa have faced continual persecution—part of a much larger, illiberal trend of diminishing press freedoms in many parts of the world. Samanth Subramanian, Quartz, 8 Oct. 2021 The next step is retaining these valuable employees by nurturing an atmosphere that promotes inclusion, continual learning, offers mentorship and provides real opportunities for growth and upward mobility opportunities. Doug Lodder, Forbes, 8 Oct. 2021 Especially now, with the continual (but still too low) increase in vaccination rates, when more and more businesses across the U.S. are finally beginning to reopen, or at least setting optimistic dates. Phil Blair, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 Oct. 2021 Compounding fashion’s continual rise in emissions is ecological damage, biodiversity loss and wastewater pollution from textile production processes. Brooke Roberts-islam, Forbes, 1 Oct. 2021 Part of Epic’s strategy for the metaverse will require a continual stream of content creation to keep users engaged. Gene Park, Washington Post, 28 Sep. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near continual

contingent use



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Statistics for continual

Last Updated

19 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Continual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2021.

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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 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

More from Merriam-Webster on continual

Nglish: Translation of continual for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of continual for Arabic Speakers


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