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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Continental Europe

Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent, is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands.[1] Notably, in British English usage, the term means Europe excluding the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Ireland and Iceland.

One general definition of "Continental Europe" is the European landmass excluding the UK, Ireland and Iceland. Two other island nations excluded from Continental Europe are Malta and the Republic of Cyprus. However, in other areas of Europe different ideas on what the term actually means prevail.

Some definitions of Continental Europe extend the boundaries of the continent to its geographical boundaries, thus including nations that are within the elevated boundaries of the Ural Mountains and the Caucasus Mountains.


Use in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Continent is used to refer to the mainland of Europe. A famous, perhaps apocryphal, British newspaper headline once read "Fog in Channel; Continent Cut Off". [2]

Derivatively, the adjective "Continental" refers to the social practices or fashion of continental Europe, as opposed to those in Britain. Examples include breakfast and, historically, long-range driving before Britain had motorways.

Use in Ireland

In Ireland, the term mainland Europe is much more commonly used than the term continental Europe. The latter term is used, though not to the same extent as in other countries.


Map of the Scandiae islands by Nicolaus Germanus for a 1467 publication of Cosmographia Claudii Ptolomaei Alexandrini.

Especially, in Germanic studies, "Continental" refers to the European continent excluding the Scandinavian peninsula, Britain, Ireland and Iceland. The reason for this is that although the Scandinavian peninsula is technically attached to Continental Europe by Karelia, it is in practice reached by sea, not by land (which would imply travelling north as far as Tornio at the 66th parallel north), and has in the past been mis-identified as an island (Scandia). Kontinenten - "the Continent" - is a vernacular Swedish expression excluding Sweden, Norway and Finland, but including Denmark (even the Danish archipelago) and the rest of continental Europe. In Norway, similarly, one speaks about Europa as a separate entity.

Mediterranean islands

In the Mediterranean context, "the continent" may refer to the continental part of Italy (as opposed to Sardinia and Sicily), Spain with Balearic islands, Alboran or the continental part of France (as opposed to Corsica) and, Portugal. However, the Portuguese archipels of Madeira and Azores are not mediterranean islands, both being located in the Atlantic Ocean as well as the whole coastal area of the Portuguese continent.

See also




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