Why is Greenland considered an island but not Eurasia?

A STAFF REPORT FROM THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD

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?

Veg replies:

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.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. THOUGH THE SDSAB DOES ITS BEST, THESE COLUMNS ARE EDITED BY ED ZOTTI, NOT CECIL, SO ACCURACYWISE YOU'D BETTER KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED.

Comment on this Column