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I am making a quiz and I want to know whether Australia or Oceania is the continent? I have searched it on Google but I can't find an answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Australia is the continent & Oceania is name invented to group a number of small area & small population countries, predominantly in the Pacific Ocean. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Feb 20 '17 at 11:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Fred, I disagree. See my answer below $\endgroup$
    – arkaia
    Feb 20 '17 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @dferdo_04 how are you defining "continent" here? $\endgroup$ Jun 26 at 10:23
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Partly, it depends on where you got educated. In many countries of Europe, Oceania is the continent. Calling the continent Australia is pretty much considered "English-centric". The reasoning for calling it Oceania is that Australia is only part of the continent. The extend of the mainland during the ice ages included part of today's Indonesia and Papua-New Guinea. While calling it Australia makes some sense and it is the largest part of the continent, in a sense it is like if we were to call Asia, Russia.

De Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) - Self made, using this map for the background, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7382691 Source: Wikipedia (Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) - Self made, using this map for the background, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7382691)

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    $\begingroup$ In what European countries/languages are Oceania used for the Australian plate? Is the same word used for the sociopolitical region? $\endgroup$
    – user2821
    Feb 23 '17 at 3:44
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    $\begingroup$ In Spain for instance. $\endgroup$
    – arkaia
    Feb 23 '17 at 4:11
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Australia is a continent and Oceania is a region.

Continents are vaguely defined as large landmasses separated by water or just by historical context. Earth scientists have much more precise definitions of what a continental plate is vs an oceanic plate.

In the case of Australia, the continental plate consists of the landmasses Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. Sometimes other names are used to clarify the difference between the country Australia and the continent.

Oceania is the region of island nations and sometimes Australia, located in or near the Pacific Ocean. There are a number of different definitions depending on the context. Usually Oceania includes islands that have no affiliation with the Australian continent.


A personal comment inspired by aretxabaleta's different, but also correct answer: Exact definitions can be difficult and often misleading as we tend to use language to label objects rather than processes, whiles Earth is better understood as processes, scientifically and socially.

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Oceania is a geographical region, Australia is a continent which is a part of Oceania.

Oceania consists of four subregions: Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.

Australasia consists of the continent of Australia (aka Australia-New Guinea) and the submerged continent of Zealandia (aka Tasmantis). Two remote Australian external territories, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, are also considered parts of Australasia.

The continent of Australia consists of three main parts: mainland Australia, the island of Tasmania, and the island of New Guinea. Mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania form the country of Australia while the island of New Guinea consists of the country of Papua New Guinea and two Indonesian provinces (Papua and West Papua). In order to distinguish between the country of Australia and the continent of Australia, some people prefer to call the continent Australia-New Guinea instead.

Zealandia also consists of three main parts: New Zealand, New Caledonia, and Norfolk Island.

In cultural geography, New Zealand is also considered a part of Polynesia while Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia are also considered parts of Melanesia.

Therefore:

Oceania (region) > Australasia (subregion) > Australia-New Guinea (continent) > Australia (country) > Mainland Australia (continental mainland) > Tasmania (continental island)

Oceania is a unique case in world geography. It is the only geographical region which contains two continents (one of them is submerged). All the other geographical regions contain just one continent and they share the same name. For example, Asia can be either a geographical region (Asian mainland + nearby islands) or a continent (the mainland only, without any islands).

Some geographers consider the underwater continental shelves and their associated continental islands to be parts of a continent. Even under this definition, there are still oceanic islands (e.g. Iceland) which are parts of a geographical region, but not parts of a continent (i.e. Iceland is a part of the European geographical region, but not a part of the European continent).

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This is Oceania according to this Norwegian meteorological website https://www.yr.no/place/Oceania/. As you can see, it is a quite a large area. The website has a very precise weather forecast for almost every place on Earth. The continent is Australia and the area of the Earth is Oceania.

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As answered before, it depends on where are you from. In English-speaking countries Oceania usually includes Australia. In other countries, e.g. Russia or Poland, there is a distinction between "continent" and "part of the world". The continent is Australia, however "part of the world" is "Australia and Oceania". The same term, "Australia and Oceania" is used e.g. by National Geographic.

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