Definition of continental drift in US English:

continental drift


  • The gradual movement of the continents across the earth's surface through geological time.

    The theory of continental drift, proposed in 1912, suggested that continents and continental crust drifted over denser oceanic crust. The mechanisms by which the original theory explained the drift, however, could not be substantiated and were proven wrong. The theory of continental drift has been replaced by the theory of plate tectonics. It is believed that a single supercontinent called Pangaea broke up to form Gondwana and Laurasia, which further split to form the present-day continents. South America and Africa, for example, are moving apart at a rate of a few centimeters per year. See plate tectonics

    • ‘It is in Africa where critical data exist that spawned the theories of continental drift, the origins of life, and the emergence of humans and their subsequent migrations out of Africa.’
    • ‘By the late 1960s the modern theories of continental drift and plate tectonics had become firmly established in geological thought.’
    • ‘The Elephant Bird's Tale is a tale of Gondwana, and of continental drift or, as it is now called, plate tectonics.’
    • ‘Later theories of continental drift depended on plate tectonics; rates of movement of continents were not an integral part of those theories.’
    • ‘No mechanism was known, for example for continental drift when it was proposed by Wegener.’
    • ‘The site clarifies the often fuzzy distinction between the older theory of continental drift and its more recent reincarnation, plate tectonics.’
    • ‘The theory of continental drift would become the spark that ignited a new way of viewing the Earth.’
    • ‘According to the theory of continental drift, Africa and South America separated from this super continent first.’
    • ‘Forty years ago, hardly any geologists believed in continental drift.’
    • ‘Of course, none of these conclusions could have been reached without all these workers rejecting the idea of continental drift.’
    • ‘But of course, the scientists who refused to accept Wegener's continental drift hypothesis in 1912 and up to about 1950 were entirely right to do so.’
    • ‘Geologists and continental drift theorists have shown that there was once one super continent named Pangea.’
    • ‘Despite the now compelling nature of much of the geological evidence for continental drift, the most unequivocal proof of the movement of continents now surely comes from palaeomagnetism.’
    • ‘When first proposed a generation ago, the theory of continental drift and plate tectonics was one of the most shocking scientific ideas of its day.’
    • ‘However, at the time that Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift, most scientists still believed the Earth was a solid, motionless body.’
    • ‘Quite suddenly, Wegener's theory of continental drift had the mechanism that it had previously lacked.’
    • ‘The groove resembled the rifts between continental blocks that Wegener's theory of continental drift predicted far too closely for comfort.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the entire thesis of continental drift was also thrown out.’
    • ‘For example, when Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift he could not explain how continents move.’
    • ‘Searching for evidence to further develop his theory of continental drift, Wegener came across a paleontological paper suggesting that a land bridge had once connected Africa with Brazil.’


continental drift

/ˌkɑn(t)əˈnɛn(t)l drɪft//ˌkän(t)əˈnen(t)l drift/