[kon-tn-uh nt]
See more synonyms for continent on
  1. one of the main landmasses of the globe, usually reckoned as seven in number (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, and Antarctica).
  2. a comparable landmass on another planet.
  3. the mainland, as distinguished from islands or peninsulas.
  4. the Continent, the mainland of Europe, as distinguished from the British Isles.
  5. a continuous tract or extent, as of land.
  6. Archaic. something that serves as a container or boundary.
  1. exercising or characterized by restraint in relation to the desires or passions and especially to sexual desires; temperate.
  2. able to control urinary and fecal discharge.
  3. Obsolete. containing; being a container; capacious.
  4. Obsolete. restraining or restrictive.
  5. Obsolete. continuous; forming an uninterrupted tract, as land.

Origin of continent

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin continent- (stem of continēns, present participle of continēre to contain), equivalent to con- con- + -tin-, combining form of ten- hold + -ent- -ent
Related formsun·con·ti·nent, adjectiveun·con·ti·nent·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Contemporary Examples of continent

Historical Examples of continent

British Dictionary definitions for continent


  1. one of the earth's large land masses (Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, North and South America, and Antarctica)
  2. that part of the earth's crust that rises above the oceans and is composed of sialic rocks. Including the continental shelves, the continents occupy 30 per cent of the earth's surface
  3. obsolete
    1. mainland as opposed to islands
    2. a continuous extent of land
Derived Formscontinental (ˌkɒntɪˈnɛntəl), adjectivecontinentally, adverb

Word Origin for continent

C16: from the Latin phrase terra continens continuous land, from continēre; see contain


  1. able to control urination and defecation
  2. exercising self-restraint, esp from sexual activity; chaste
Derived Formscontinence or continency, nouncontinently, adverb

Word Origin for continent

C14: from Latin continent-, present participle of continēre; see contain


  1. the Continent the mainland of Europe as distinguished from the British Isles
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

Word Origin and History for continent

late 14c., "self-restraining," from Old French continent and directly from Latin continentem (nominative continens) "holding together, continuous," present participle of continere "hold together" (see contain). Meaning moved from "exercising self-restraint" to "chaste" 14c., and to bowel and bladder control 19c.


"large land mass," 1550s, from continent land (mid-15c.), translating Latin terra continens "continuous land," from continens, present participle of continere (see continent (adj.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

continent in Science


  1. One of the seven great landmasses of the Earth. The continents are Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.