gra·​da·​tion | \ grā-ˈdā-shən How to pronounce gradation (audio) , 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 How to pronounce gradation (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl , grə-​ \ adjective
gradationally adverb

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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 For monolids like mine, Maki suggests trying a simple single-tone gradation, layering a darker shadow along the lash line and fading it upward. Monica Kim, Vogue, 28 May 2021 The red petals have lushness and gradation of red color that is contrasted with yellow pistils completed with a detailed lacquer technique. Anthony Demarco, Forbes, 19 May 2021 There are hair accessories—a rare design for Harry Winston—as well as rings, and a pair of combination chandelier/ear climber earrings with gems set in a gradation of colors. Carol Besler, Robb Report, 17 May 2021 This gradation fed into the basic concept of the whole site as a landscape that is formal, then informal and finally pastoral. Adrian Higgins, Washington Post, 7 Apr. 2021 No gradation exists between the two: You are born either a knowledge-acquiring intellectual or a sensation-seeking normal. Washington Post, 24 Mar. 2021 For food professionals, who spend their lives exploring nuance and gradation in flavor, recourse is even more limited. Washington Post, 28 Sep. 2020 Softer hardwoods like ash, cherry, and birch tend to have more subtle variations in their color and gradation, which can create a more sophisticated look, with a higher price tag. Sarah Baird, House Beautiful, 14 Sep. 2020 To stitch the campus into its surroundings, which include residential bungalows, a park and the famed Menil Collection galleries, the landscape architects from the firm Nelson Byrd Woltz encircled the sanctuary with a gradation of green spaces. Sallie Lewis, WSJ, 8 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for gradation

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The first known use of gradation was in 1549

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Dictionary Entries Near gradation


gradacol membrane






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Last Updated

12 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gradation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for gradation



English Language Learners Definition of gradation

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

More from Merriam-Webster on gradation

Nglish: Translation of gradation for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gradation for Arabic Speakers


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