A continent is a large piece of land (the earth’s crust). A significant part of the continent is above sea level. In most cases, the mainland and part of the world are synonymous with the continent, but according to many people, these are still different concepts. There are seven continents on Earth (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia and Antarctica). However, you can often find other opinions about the amount, and here’s why.

How many continents?

In different traditions, in the educational systems of different countries, it is customary to consider a different number of continents. There is no consensus, hence the periodic confusion with numbers. And when in some sources they talk about the mainland, and in others about part of the world, then everyone also blames these concepts. For example, sometimes North and South America are considered to be the single continent of America, since they are essentially not separated by water (the artificial Panama Canal does not count). This interpretation is popular in Spanish-speaking countries. In the same way, there is an opinion that Europe, Asia and Africa are one continent – Afro-Eurasia – because they form an undivided landmass. And you have certainly heard that Europe and Asia, which have an extremely implicit distinction, are often called Eurasia. Hence the results of the calculation, when there are from four to seven continents on Earth. Nothing is lost, they just count differently. In other words, the problem of understanding is not that, for example, Europe was called a continent or mainland, but in what and why Europe was attributed, with what it was glued together, from whom it was separated. All this is pure convention, and there are several different variants of such conventions.

Area and population of the continents

Continent Area, km 2 % of all land on Earth
Asia 43.4 million 29.14%
Africa 30.3 million 20.34%
North America 24.71 million 16.59%
South America 17.84 million 11.98%
Antarctica 14.1 million 9.47%
Europe 10 million 6.71%
Australia 7.66 million 5.14%
Total: 148.94 million
Continent Population % of the total population of the Earth
Asia 4366 million 59.54%
Africa 1200 million 16.37%
Europe 742 million 10.12%
North America 566 million 7.72%
South America 418 million 5.71%
Australia 23 million 0.31%
Total: 7334 million

Which is the largest and smallest

Asia is the largest continent. This applies to both area (29%) and population (60%). The smallest in the list is Australia (5.14% and 0.33% respectively). This takes into account only the continent of Australia – without Oceania. Antarctica is missing from the population list because this ice-bound continent is uninhabitable (comfortable) and largely uninhabited.

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U.S. State Overview

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