1. of regular or frequent recurrence; often repeated; very frequent: continual bus departures.
  2. happening without interruption or cessation; continuous in time.

Origin of continual

1300–50; < Medieval Latin continuālis, equivalent to Latin continu(us) continuous + -ālis -al1; replacing Middle English continuel < Middle French < Latin, as above
Related formscon·tin·u·al·i·ty, con·tin·u·al·ness, nounqua·si-con·tin·u·al, adjectivequa·si-con·tin·u·al·ly, adverbun·con·tin·u·al, adjectiveun·con·tin·u·al·ly, adverb
Can be confusedcontinual continuous intermittent (see usage note at the current entry)

Synonyms for continual

Usage note

Although usage guides generally advise that continual may be used only to mean “intermittent” and continuous only to mean “uninterrupted,” the words are used interchangeably in all kinds of speech and writing with no distinction in meaning: The president's life is under continual (or continuous ) scrutiny. Continuous (or continual ) bursts of laughter punctuated her testimony. The adverbs continually and continuously are also used interchangeably. To make a clear distinction between what occurs at short intervals and what proceeds without interruption, writers sometimes use the contrasting terms intermittent ( intermittent losses of power during the storm ) and uninterrupted ( uninterrupted reception during the storm ) or similar expressions. Continuous is not interchangeable with continual in the sense of spatial relationship: a continuous (not continual ) series of passages. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for continuality


  1. recurring frequently, esp at regular intervals
  2. occurring without interruption; continuous in time
Derived Formscontinuality or continualness, nouncontinually, adverb

Word Origin for continual

C14: from Old French continuel, from Latin continuus uninterrupted, from continēre to hold together, contain


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 continuality



early 14c., continuell, from Old French continuel (12c.), from Latin continuus (see continue). That which is continual is that which is either always going on or recurs at short intervals and never comes to an end; that which is continuous is that in which there is no break between the beginning and the end. Related: Continually (c.1300, contynuelliche).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper