Difference Between Island and Continent (With Table)

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.

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 Comparison




Any 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.


Almost around 18,995


Artificial Creation

It is possible with proper technology and resource.

Not possible (For now)


Smaller when compared with Continent.

Biggest landmass on Earth.


Andaman 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.