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2017 Word of the Year

continental shelf

noun, Physical Geography.
1.
the part of a continent that is submerged in relatively shallow sea.
Origin of continental shelf
1940-1945
First recorded in 1940-45
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for continental shelf
Historical Examples
  • The varying width of the continental shelf is due to several causes.

  • The continental shelf of this portion of the shore of the Pacific is narrow.

    North America Israel C. Russell
  • The adjacent 72 sea is deep and the continental shelf narrow.

    North America Israel C. Russell
  • He moved slowly and cautiously until he was well out to sea, well away from the continental shelf and over the ocean deeps.

    Anything You Can Do ... Gordon Randall Garrett
  • Fathometer soundings showed it was on a steep upward slope of the continental shelf.

  • This is the broadest portion of the continental shelf now known on the Atlantic border of the continent.

    North America Israel C. Russell
  • Throughout its entire extent, however, the continental shelf abounds in both plant and animal life.

    North America Israel C. Russell
  • The Pacific basin is deep close to the land bordering it, thus restricting the seaward extension of the continental shelf.

    North America Israel C. Russell
  • In this and in similar cases the progress of the estuary is indicated upon what is now the continental shelf.

  • On the ocean side the continental shelf is extremely narrow.

British Dictionary definitions for continental shelf

continental shelf

noun
1.
the sea bed surrounding a continent at depths of up to about 200 metres (100 fathoms), at the edge of which the continental slope drops steeply to the ocean floor
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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continental shelf in Science
continental shelf  
The part of the edge of a continent between the shoreline and the continental slope. It is covered by shallow ocean waters and has a very gentle slope.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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continental shelf in Culture

continental shelf definition


The region adjoining the coastline of a continent, where the ocean is no more than a few hundred feet deep. The shelf is built up from sediments washed down to the sea by rivers.

Note: The continental shelves are often valuable because of the mineral resources and abundant marine life found there. (See offshore drilling.)
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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