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adjective mar·gin·al \ˈmärj-nəl, ˈmär-jə-nəl\

Simple Definition of marginal

  • : not very important

  • : very slight or small

  • : not included in the main part of society or of a group

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of marginal

  1. 1 :  written or printed in the margin of a page or sheet <marginal notes>

  2. 2 a :  of, relating to, or situated at a margin or border b :  not of central importance <regards violence as a marginal rather than a central problem>; also :  limited in extent, significance, or stature <had only marginal success with the business> c (1) :  occupying the borderland of a relatively stable territorial or cultural area <marginal tribes> (2) :  characterized by the incorporation of habits and values from two divergent cultures and by incomplete assimilation in either <the marginal cultural habits of new immigrant groups> (3) :  excluded from or existing outside the mainstream of society, a group, or a school of thought <marginal voters>

  3. 3 :  located at the fringe of consciousness <marginal sensations>

  4. 4 a :  close to the lower limit of qualification, acceptability, or function :  barely exceeding the minimum requirements <a semiliterate person of marginal ability> b (1) :  having a character or capacity fitted to yield a supply of goods which when marketed at existing price levels will barely cover the cost of production <marginal land> (2) :  of, relating to, or derived from goods produced and marketed with such result <marginal profits>

  5. 5 :  relating to or being a function of a random variable that is obtained from a function of several random variables by integrating or summing over all possible values of the other variables <a marginal probability function>


play \ˌmär-jə-ˈna-lə-tē\ noun


play \ˈmärj-nə-lē, ˈmär-jə-nəl-ē\ adverb

Examples of marginal in a sentence

  1. There has been only a marginal improvement in her condition.

  2. His reading and writing abilities are marginal.

Origin and Etymology of marginal

Medieval Latin marginalis, from Latin margin-, margo

First Known Use: 1573

Medical Dictionary


adjective mar·gin·al \ˈmärj-nəl, -ən-əl\

Medical Definition of marginal

  1. 1:  of, relating to, or situated at a margin or border

  2. 2:  located at the fringe of consciousness <marginal sensations>

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