gra·​da·​tion | \grā-ˈdā-shən, grə-\

Definition of gradation 

1a : a series forming successive stages the gradations of evolutionary development

b : a step or place in an ordered scale

2 : an advance by regular degrees gradations of social progress

3 : a gradual passing from one tint or shade to another

4 : the act or process of grading

5 : ablaut

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Other Words from gradation

gradational \ grā-​ˈdā-​shnəl , -​shə-​nᵊl, grə-​ \ adjective
gradationally adverb

Did You Know?

In the Boy Scouts, gradations of rank move upward from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout. A violin or a voice can produce gradations of musical pitch too small to appear in written music. In the 18th century Jonathan Swift could even write of "the several kinds and gradations of laughter, which ladies must daily practice by the looking-glass".

Examples of gradation in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Few choral bodies are as sensitive to Ravel’s subtle gradations of color, and the singing of Wolfe’s 130 choristers brought out the evocative wonder at the outset of Part 2 of the ballet. John Von Rhein,, "CSO delivers a winning Ravel program under debut conductor Pintscher," 6 Apr. 2018 For a network like OWN, there is an immediate advantage in its singular focus on black life in all its gradations. Jason Parham, WIRED, "How Oprah’s Network Finally Found Its Voice," 19 June 2018 But even within her sport, there are gradations of crazy. David Wharton,, "Ultra running can mean extreme heat, mountain climbs and, oh yeah, look out for those trees," 14 June 2018 Over the years, the scale has stretched to 10, in order to accommodate more gradations of sensation. Nicola Twilley, The New Yorker, "The Neuroscience of Pain," 9 May 2016 So, despite Helmchen’s gradations of touch, tone and color, his swift, clean interpretations suggested the pieces had been pretty much unencumbered by extramusical associations. Alan Artner,, "German pianist Martin Helmchen closes Piano Series with Orchestra Hall recital," 11 June 2018 These dozen evocative miniatures lend themselves to his crystalline precision and wide array of dynamic gradations, as his new recording of Debussy’s Book 2 Preludes, and Sunday’s recital, demonstrated. John Von Rhein,, "Youth and experience score separate victories, as Orlinski debuts and Pollini returns," 24 Apr. 2018 Imagine something that looks like a spreadsheet but instead of numbers it’s filled with colors of varying hues and gradations. Monique Brouillette, WIRED, "New Brain Maps With Unmatched Detail May Change Neuroscience," 8 Apr. 2018 This orientation—some might call it sideways—creates a gradation of microclimates suited to a diverse assortment of grapes. Matt Jaffe, Los Angeles Magazine, "What to Drink, Eat, and See on a Weekend Wine Getaway to the Santa Ynez Valley," 26 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gradation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of gradation

1549, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for gradation

see grade entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near gradation


gradacol membrane






Statistics for gradation

Last Updated

26 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for gradation

The first known use of gradation was in 1549

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English Language Learners Definition of gradation

: a small difference between two points or parts that can be seen in something that changes gradually

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