Origin of continental

First recorded in 1750–60; continent + -al1
Related formscon·ti·nen·tal·ly, adverbnon·con·ti·nen·tal, adjective, nounpre·con·ti·nen·tal, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for continental

Contemporary Examples of continental

Historical Examples of continental

  • Here a man offers a thousand dollars—a thousand dollars, in Continental rags!

    Old News

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • The essence of the continental system is its gigantic scale.

  • I have said before, I think, that I was the only officer of the Continental line in the whole party.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • Get me my Continental Bradshaw out of my dressing-bag: I'm no use here.

  • This cannot truly be said of the greatest of their continental models or rivals.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

British Dictionary definitions for continental



of or characteristic of Europe, excluding the British Isles
of or relating to the 13 original British North American colonies during and immediately after the War of American Independence


(sometimes not capital) an inhabitant of Europe, excluding the British Isles
a regular soldier of the rebel army during the War of American Independence
US history a currency note issued by the Continental Congress
Derived FormsContinentalism, nounContinentalist, noun
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 continental

1818 as a purely geographical term, from continent + -al (1). In reference to the European mainland (as opposed to Great Britain), recorded from 1760. Continental breakfast (the kind eaten on the continent as opposed to the kind eaten in Britain) is attested by 1855. In reference to the British American colonies from 1774; the Continental Congress is attested from 1775; continental divide in use by 1865; continental rise in geology from 1959; continental slope from 1907. Continental shelf first attested 1888.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper