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Continuous vs. Intermittent: What's the Difference?

By Janet White & Harlon Moss || Updated on May 22, 2024
Continuous refers to something occurring without interruption, while intermittent describes something happening at irregular intervals with breaks.

Key Differences

Continuous describes an unbroken, ongoing process or action. It implies no interruptions or pauses, and the activity remains constant. For example, continuous monitoring means keeping an eye on something without stopping. Intermittent, on the other hand, refers to actions or events that start and stop at irregular intervals. There are breaks or pauses between occurrences. For instance, intermittent fasting involves eating periods alternated with fasting periods.
In continuous processes, there is a steady, uninterrupted flow. This can apply to various scenarios, such as a continuous production line in manufacturing, where items are produced without stopping. The consistency of a continuous process often results in predictable outcomes. Intermittent processes, however, involve variability in timing and occurrence. These can be seen in situations like intermittent rain, where rain falls sporadically throughout the day with dry periods in between. This unpredictability can affect planning and expectations.
In a continuous system, there is often a need for constant resources and attention, such as in continuous medical care, which ensures ongoing treatment without breaks. This consistency can be crucial for patient health and recovery. Intermittent systems may require fewer resources at any given time but need to be prepared for sporadic demands. For example, intermittent maintenance on equipment means performing checks and repairs only at certain intervals, which can be more cost-effective but less predictable.
Continuous actions are associated with stability and reliability, ideal for processes requiring constant attention. Intermittent actions are more adaptable and can be adjusted based on specific needs or conditions, suitable for scenarios where flexibility is important.

Comparison Chart


Occurring without interruption
Happening at irregular intervals


Continuous monitoring
Intermittent fasting

Process Flow

Unbroken, steady flow
Start and stop with pauses


Predictable outcomes
Variable, less predictable

Resource Use

Constant resources and attention
Sporadic resources and attention


Ideal for stability and reliability
Suitable for flexibility and adaptation

Continuous and Intermittent Definitions


Unbroken and steady.
She enjoyed the continuous flow of the river.


Starting and stopping unpredictably.
The signal was intermittent, making communication difficult.


Without any pauses or gaps.
Continuous assessment helps track student progress.


Occurring at irregular intervals.
Intermittent rain showers fell throughout the day.


Occurring without cessation.
The factory operates on a continuous production schedule.


Happening sporadically.
He experiences intermittent back pain.


Persistent and consistent over time.
His continuous effort led to significant improvements.


Not steady or continuous.
The intermittent power outages were frustrating.


Uninterrupted, ongoing without stops.
The continuous hum of the machine was soothing.


Stopping and starting at intervals.


Uninterrupted in time, sequence, substance, or extent.


Alternately containing and empty of water
An intermittent lake.


Attached together in repeated units
A continuous form fed into a printer.


Stopping and starting, occurring, or presenting at intervals; coming after a particular time span.
The day was cloudy with intermittent rain.
Intermittent bugs are most difficult to reproduce.


Of or relating to a line or curve that extends without a break or irregularity.


Existing only for certain seasons; that is, being dry for part of the year.
The area has many intermittent lakes and streams.


Of or relating to a function between two topological spaces such that the preimage of any open set in the range is an open set in the domain.


An intermittent fever or disease.


Without stopping; without a break, cessation, or interruption.
A continuous current of electricity


Coming and going at intervals; alternating; recurrent; periodic; as, an intermittent fever.


Without intervening space; continued.
A continuous line of railroad


An intermittent fever or disease.


(botany) Not deviating or varying from uniformity; not interrupted; not joined or articulated.


Stopping and starting at irregular intervals;
Intermittent rain showers


Such that, for every x in the domain, for each small open interval D about f(x), there's an interval containing x whose image is in D.


Stopping and starting at regular intervals


Such that each open set in the target space has an open preimage (in the domain space, with respect to the given function).
Each continuous function from the real line to the rationals is constant, since the rationals are totally disconnected.


With breaks or pauses between occurrences.
Intermittent fasting alternates between eating and fasting periods.


(grammar) Expressing an ongoing action or state.


Without break, cessation, or interruption; without intervening space or time; uninterrupted; unbroken; continual; unceasing; constant; continued; protracted; extended; as, a continuous line of railroad; a continuous current of electricity.
He can hear its continuous murmur.


Not deviating or varying from uninformity; not interrupted; not joined or articulated.


Continuing in time or space without interruption;
A continuous rearrangement of electrons in the solar atoms results in the emission of light
A continuous bout of illness lasting six months
Lived in continuous fear
A continuous row of warehouses
A continuous line has no gaps or breaks in it
Moving midweek holidays to the nearest Monday or Friday allows uninterrupted work weeks


Of a function or curve; extending without break or irregularity


How does continuous work benefit manufacturing?

It ensures a steady production flow, leading to consistent output and efficiency.

What are the advantages of intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting can promote weight loss, improve metabolism, and simplify meal planning.

Why is continuous learning important?

Continuous learning helps individuals stay updated with knowledge and skills in a fast-changing world.

Is continuous monitoring better than intermittent monitoring?

Continuous monitoring is better for constant oversight, while intermittent monitoring can be sufficient for less critical situations.

What are intermittent signals?

Intermittent signals are those that start and stop, often unpredictably, like a flickering light.

What is the difference between continuous and intermittent?

Continuous means without interruption, while intermittent means occurring at irregular intervals with breaks.

Can continuous and intermittent be used to describe the same process?

No, they describe opposite concepts: continuous is unbroken, and intermittent has pauses.

What are examples of continuous processes?

Examples include continuous production lines, 24/7 customer service, and nonstop traffic flow.

What are examples of intermittent processes?

Examples include intermittent fasting, sporadic rainfall, and occasional maintenance.

How can continuous data collection be useful?

It provides a comprehensive and detailed view of trends and patterns over time.

What is intermittent reinforcement?

Intermittent reinforcement is a concept in psychology where rewards are given at unpredictable intervals, often strengthening behavior.

What is an intermittent fault?

An intermittent fault occurs sporadically, making it difficult to replicate and fix.

Can intermittent fasting be combined with continuous exercise?

Yes, but it's important to balance food intake and energy expenditure to maintain health.

Can intermittent processes be more cost-effective?

Yes, they can be, as they often require fewer resources over time and allow for flexible scheduling.

Can continuous exercise be harmful?

Overtraining without rest can lead to injury and fatigue, so balance is crucial.

What is a continuous variable?

A continuous variable can take any value within a range, like temperature.

Are there continuous diets similar to intermittent fasting?

Continuous diets involve consistent dietary habits without alternating fasting periods.

How does continuous improvement work?

Continuous improvement involves constantly seeking ways to enhance processes, products, or services.

What challenges come with intermittent issues?

Intermittent issues can be hard to diagnose and predict, making them challenging to manage.

How do continuous and intermittent workflows differ?

Continuous workflows have no breaks, while intermittent workflows have scheduled or unscheduled pauses.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Co-written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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