gra·​di·​ent | \ ˈgrā-dē-ənt How to pronounce gradient (audio) \

Definition of gradient

1a : the rate of regular or graded (see grade entry 2 sense transitive 2) ascent or descent : inclination
b : a part sloping upward or downward
2 : change in the value of a quantity (such as temperature, pressure, or concentration) with change in a given variable and especially per unit distance in a specified direction
3 : the vector sum of the partial derivatives with respect to the three coordinate variables x, y, and z of a scalar quantity whose value varies from point to point
4 : a graded difference in physiological activity along an axis (as of the body or an embryonic field)

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Any slope can be called a gradient. In the interstate highway system, the maximum gradient is 6 percent; in other words, the highway may never ascend more than 6 vertical feet over a distance of 100 feet. Any rate of change that's shown on a graph may have a sloped gradient. Suppose the graph's horizontal axis shows the passage of time and its vertical axis shows some activity; if the activity is happening very fast, then the gradient of the line on the graph will be steep, but if it's slow the gradient will be gentle, or gradual.

Examples of gradient in a Sentence

the path goes up at a pretty steep gradient before leveling off
Recent Examples on the Web In between, there is everything from elegant white satin to flowy mauve chiffon to tiered polka dot to a green gradient dress with spaghetti straps. Lane Sainty, The Arizona Republic, 28 Apr. 2022 The stones are cut in precise gradient sizes to fit the pattern of the swirl. Carol Besler, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 These acetate frames feature gradient lenses and UVA/UVB protection. Danielle Directo-meston, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Mar. 2022 This provides seven static modes and three dynamic modes, such as breathing mode and gradient mode. Chris Hachey, BGR, 9 Mar. 2022 Effectively, the surrogate gradient method was able to correct for the chip’s imperfections during training on the computer. Quanta Magazine, 17 Feb. 2022 The ability to scale slopes up to 45 degrees along with gradient-release and hill-descent control are helpful, too. John Pearley Huffman, Car and Driver, 22 Jan. 2022 Beautifully dressed guests waltzed into an expansive, open-air room on the top floor of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles and settled into a gradient of purple, pink, red, and orange directors’ chairs. Rachel Besser, Vogue, 7 Apr. 2022 America is accepting not only a threshold of death but also a gradient of death. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 8 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of gradient

1835, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for gradient

Latin gradient-, gradiens, present participle of gradi

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Time Traveler for gradient

Time Traveler

The first known use of gradient was in 1835

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Dictionary Entries Near gradient



gradient concept

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Last Updated

6 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Gradient.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for gradient


gra·​di·​ent | \ ˈgrād-ē-ənt How to pronounce gradient (audio) \

Medical Definition of gradient

1 : change in the value of a quantity (as temperature, pressure, or concentration) with change in a given variable and especially per unit on a linear scale
2 : a graded difference in physiological activity along an axis (as of the body or an embryonic field)
3 usually gradient of effect : change in response with distance from the stimulus

More from Merriam-Webster on gradient

Nglish: Translation of gradient for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gradient for Arabic Speakers


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