A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Why is Greenland considered an island but not Eurasia?

March 12, 2008

Dear Straight Dope:

What are the requirements for being classified as an island? Africa, Europe and Asia are all connected and surrounded totally by water, how come they aren't considered an island whereas Greenland is?

Well, JP, Mr. Webster conveniently answers your question with this definition for "island": "a tract of land surrounded by water and smaller than a continent." Since Africa, Europe and Asia are all continents, they're automatically disqualified. Greenland, on the other hand, isn't considered a continent, so voila. I don't have my atlas in front of me, but I'd venture to guess that Greenland is even smaller than The Middle East, so even if you're a follower of the new upstart cartographers who consider the Middle East to be a continent (as well as communism an ideal economic situation) Greenland still wouldn't qualify.

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