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)

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

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 So the scientists wanted to create a stable pressure gradient near the boundary line of the suction cup. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Suction Cups Kinda Suck. This Wall-Climbing Robot Could Make Them Better," 21 Jan. 2020 Over the weekend, Hailey posted a stunning scenic shot of an island in the middle of icy blue water and a cloudy gradient in the sky. Seventeen, "Hailey Baldwin Says She Has Been ‘Torn Apart’ By Hate Comments," 6 Jan. 2020 One weather model for this weekend shows a pressure gradient reaching about -17 mb across the Bay Area, Null said. Matthias Gafni,, "Seeking to blame something for your power going off? Look east to Winnemucca, Nevada," 25 Oct. 2019 That's the easy part — that satisfying gradient swipe takes a little more strategy. Nicola Dall'asen, Allure, "Watch This Instagram User Make a Gradient Cat Eye With a Single Brushstroke," 15 Jan. 2020 This less aggressive approach offers a more gradual, smoother gradient than its east side counterpart as well as equally heady views. Mare Czinar, azcentral, "Test your nerve on this less-used hiking trail in Sedona. Here's how," 27 Dec. 2019 Due to the sharp contrast in temperatures on either end of the front, along with the jet stream moving overhead, there is the potential for a wide snowfall gradient across the metro area. Chris Bianchi, The Denver Post, "Colorado weather: When, where and how much snow you can expect Wednesday-Thursday," 22 Oct. 2019 In fact there was no figuration at all—just a gradient that swept between a tropic green and a hospital blue. Daniel Poppick, Harper's magazine, "Rumors," 16 Sep. 2019 Its sunset gradient ensures that every skin tone can find its perfect match, from a deep rose pink to a creamy taupe. Harper's Bazaar Staff, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Best Cream Blushes of All Time," 15 Sep. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gradient

Time Traveler for gradient

Time Traveler

The first known use of gradient was in 1835

See more words from the same year

Statistics for gradient

Last Updated

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gradient.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gradient


How to pronounce gradient (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of gradient

: a place where the ground slopes up or down


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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on gradient

What made you want to look up gradient? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

February 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of probity?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!