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 Part of what leads people to burnout is continual frustration and disappointment, and feeling a lack of control in their work. Ellevate,, "5 easy things you can do to be a better manager," 11 May 2018 The lab is part of a consortium that advises the C.D.C., and fields continual calls from infectious-disease mapping operations around the world. Benedict Carey, New York Times, "Mapping the Social Network of Coronavirus," 13 Mar. 2020 In the pit, Mr. Gergiev whipped up his forces without bothering to control them, alternately creating an atmosphere of continual storminess, or, as in the lengthy first encounter between the Dutchman and Senta, a snooze. Heidi Waleson, WSJ, "Keelhauling Wagner," 4 Mar. 2020 Tickets are $20 for a triple-entree luncheon prepared by the committee’s continual cook and her services. Rich Heileman, cleveland, "Berea clock tower itches to make music: Around The Town," 31 Jan. 2020 But the continual array of sanctions begs the question: what is left to squeeze? Fox News, "US sanctions Iranian 'death' judges, but how much is left to target before the country crumbles?," 21 Dec. 2019 Intelligence officials are alarmed at what is going on and at the continual, continuous discrediting by the president of the United States. NBC News, "Meet the Press - February 23, 2020," 23 Feb. 2020 Plus, the easiest metros were all said to have healthy markets that showed continual growth. Kelly Corbett, House Beautiful, "The 20 Easiest and Hardest Metro Areas to Find a Home in the U.S.," 19 Feb. 2020 Part of Tesla's mystique has become continual change, and the Model S has seen plenty. Dave Vanderwerp, Car and Driver, "Porsche Taycan Turbo S vs. Tesla Model S Performance: Electric Flattery," 7 Feb. 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

1 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Continual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Apr. 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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