Difference Between Island and Continent

It is very easy for one to understand which one is an island and which one is a continent by observing the map or globe. The main difference between these two phenomena is indeed their sizes. But there is much other differentiation too. All one needs to do is notice them while observing the two geographical landmasses.

Island vs Continent

The main difference between Island and Continent is that the contrast of size amongst them. Continents can cover enormous areas of land and have various nations, while an island is a small landmass enclosed by bodies of water. Apart from the apparent size difference, continents differ from islands as they have a variety of landforms and a variety of fauna and flora. Since the landmass is so big, many people from various cultures will coexist within their borders on the same continent. For every given time, an island can only hold a small number of individuals.

Island vs Continent

An island, by definition, can be defined as a piece of land, whose size can range from as small as 3,300 square feet to as huge as 836,330 sq miles and is surrounded by a water body, preferably sea or ocean, but sometimes it can be an enormous lake too. Islets or Skerries are very tiny islands that arise on emergent lands or atolls. Eyot refers to an island built in a river or big lake, while holm refers to an island off the shore. The term “archipelago” refers to a group of islands that are geographically connected.

A continent is a huge landmass segregated from other continents by oceans. Only geographical borders separate these continents, limiting their landmasses to a specific region. The term Continent comes from the Latin word “continent land,” which means “linked or continuous land.” These continents are made up of a set of countries.

Comparison Table Between Island and Continent

Parameters of ComparisonIslandContinent
DefinitionAny piece of land smaller than a continent surrounded by water is referred to as an island.A continent is a vast contiguous mass of land that is traditionally thought of as a single region.
NumberAlmost around 18,9957
Artificial CreationIt is possible with proper technology and resource.Not possible (For now)
SizeSmaller when compared with Continent.Biggest landmass on Earth.
ExamplesAndaman and Nicobar Island; Borneo and Taiwan Europe; Asia and North America

What is Island?

An island is a portion of a sub-continental area that is enclosed by a water body, i.e., Ocean and seas. Islands can sometimes be surrounded by enormous lakes as well. The term Island is sometimes alternatively used with isle. Holm is a small island off the coast, while an eyot or ait is a river or sea island. Chars, or sedimentary reefs, can be found in the Ganges delta.

Continental islands are landmasses that are located on a continent’s continental shelf. An archipelago, such as the Philippines, is a collection of geographically or geologically linked islands.

The word ‘Island’ has its terminology origin rooted in the era of Middle English. The word island arises from the Old English word ‘igland.’ From ‘ieg’ or ‘ig,’ both of which suggests ‘island’ when used alone, but when used with -‘land’ carrying the modern equivalent of Eiland “island” in Dutch and Eiland “small island” in German.

There are no particular size standards that help one in distinguishing an island and a continent. The largest island is Greenland which approximately covers over 2.1 million km sq. Australia is termed to be an island though it is one of the continents of the world.

Artificial islands are often developed on previously established “low-tide elevations.” Low Tide Elevations are naturally formed patches of land that are surrounded by and above water at low tide. These get submerged during the high tides. These phenomena aren’t as big as any of those like the continents, and their seas aren’t their own.


What is Continent?

A continent is an enormous landmass that is made up of numerous considerably smaller landmasses. The expected or anticipated land area coverage of the cumulative of all continents is approximately 148,647,000 square kilometers or 57,393,000 square miles. It roughly accounts for 29.1% of the earth’s entire crust surface area, which has a value of about 510,065,600 km sq. or 196,937,400 sq mi.

Up to seven regions are usually known as continents of the world and are mostly defined by consensus rather than any specific criterion. Asia, South America, Europe, North America, Australia, Africa, and finally Antarctica are the names of the seven continents.

The continent is the term that belongs to areas of continental crust present on the continental plates. However, they generally incorporate pieces of continents, like Madagascar, that are not generally regarded as continents. Others, such as Zealandia, are largely encircled by water. Only the Earth’s continental crust is believed to exist in the whole solar system.

Oceanic Island is the term that is used to define the piece of the crust which comes up to the surface from the floors of the water bodies, i.e., oceans. The Oceania region is built up of the bulk of the Pacific Ocean’s island countries furthermore dependencies, as well as the continent of Australia. The coastlines of the world’s main landmasses all run along a single, continuous World Ocean, which is split into several major oceanic components through continents and other geographical factors.


Main Differences Between Island and Continent

  1. Any portion of land that is smaller than a continent and is surrounded by water is referred to as an island whereas. A continent is a gigantic contiguous piece of land that is traditionally considered as a single region.
  2. There are roughly around 18,995 islands on Earth, whereas there are only seven continents.
  3. With proper and advanced technology aided with sufficient resources, the creation of a man-made island is possible, but the creation of a continent is still not possible for humans for now.
  4. When compared with a continent, an island is smaller. The continents are considered to be the biggest landmass on this planet.
  5. Examples of islands are Taiwan, Sakhalin, and Java. Examples of Continents are Asia, South America, and Europe.


The size of an island and a continent is the principal difference. But many other distinctions separate them from the other. There are roughly about 18,995 islands, whereas there are only seven continents on Earth. Other than these, another prominent difference is an island is owned by a country, whereas there are numerous countries in one single continent, each having its own and distinct cultures, flora, and fauna.


  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=yJNcAAAAcAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA199&dq=what+is+continent+in+geography&ots=UQIwpilE8w&sig=gDm1M06gR5eOuAxHRALxHX0yG6A
  2. https://rgs-ibg.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/area.12546
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