## noun

gra·​di·​ent
1
a
: 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)

## 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

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gradient.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

## Word History

Etymology

First Known Use

1835, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of gradient was in 1835

## Kids Definition

noun
gra·​di·​ent
2
: a continuous graded change in measure, activity, or substance
vertical temperature gradient in a lake
a gradient in developmental activity in a seedling

## Medical Definition

noun
gra·​di·​ent
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

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