World Facts

Does the World Have 6 or 7 Continents?

In the United States, many students are taught that there are seven continents on the Earth. However, in the rest of the world, this is not the case.

There are different definitions of the term "continent", which results in a varying number of continents found in the world. A continent may be defined as a discrete area of land which is both extensive and continuous and is ideally separated by sea or ocean. While there are no standard definitions as to the number of continents, most sources admit to six or seven while others put it at five. In the US, many students are taught that there are seven continents on Earth which are Africa, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Antarctica, Europe, South America, and North America. However, in many other parts of the world, a different definition is taught.

How The Counting Of Continents Vary In Different Parts Of The World

In Europe, many students are taught that there are six continents where South and North America are combined to form America as a single continent. The six continents are America, Asia, Australia, Africa, Antarctica, and Europe. In France, students are not taught of Antarctica as a continent, and thus they only know of five continents. A lot of scientists consider the earth to have six continents where Asia and Europe are combined to form Eurasia; this is because both Europe and Asia consist of one solid geological landmass. Thus the six continents are Australia, Antarctica, Africa, Eurasia, North America, and South America.

The Geographic Division Of The World Into Regions

Geographers divide the planet into regions to make it easier for studying. However, some people can find it confusing when it comes to differentiating between the regions and to which continent they belong to. According to the Official Listing of Countries by region, the world is divided into eight main regions which are North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean, Australia, and Oceania, the Middle East and North Africa, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Different Regions And The Continents To Which They Belong

The Middle East is part of the continent Eurasia or Asia based on how the term continent is defined. Egypt, which is part of the Middle East, is also considered a country in the continent of Africa. Many people agree that North America collectively comprises of the US, Canada, Mexico, Greenland, and Central America with the continental border stopping at Columbia. Legally Hawaii belongs to the continent of America as part of the US, but geologically the island might be considered as part of Oceania which is an archipelago that is sometimes associated with Australia and other times ignored.

The Confusion Continues To Exist

The most commonly accepted number of continents in the world is seven if Antarctica is included. However, as it is uninhabited, Antarctica is sometimes not counted as a continent, bringing the number to six. The continent of Australia is often confused with the country of Australia which together with New Guinea, Tasmania and other islands makes up the continent. The continent of Australia is also referred to as Oceania which includes the Polynesian islands, New Zealand, and Micronesian islands together with the previously listed countries. As Oceania does not constitute of a single continuous landmass, it is not considered as a continent.

Why The Difference In Counting?

Different people admit to varying number of continents based on how they define the term continent. If a continent is defined as a contiguous land mass, then Europe and Asia, as well as South America and North America, would have to be combined thus generating five continents. However, if a continent is defined as a large land mass, then the term continent is open to interpretation. Purists who consider artificial canals as inadequate admit to the world having four continents.

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