- 2 Grammaranother term for progressive (sense 3 of the adjective).
mid 17th century: from Latin continuus 'uninterrupted', from continere 'hang together' (from con- 'together with' + tenere 'hold') + -ous
There is some overlap in meaning between continuous and continual, but the two words are not wholly synonymous. Both can mean roughly ‘without interruption’ (a long and continual war; five years of continuous warfare), but continuous is much more prominent in this sense and, unlike continual, can be used to refer to space as well as time, as in the development forms a continuous line along the coast. Continual, on the other hand, typically means ‘happening frequently, with intervals between’, as in the bus service has been disrupted by continual breakdowns. Overall, continuous occurs much more frequently than continual (almost five times more often in the Oxford English Corpus).