gra·di·ent | \ ˈgrā-dē-ənt \

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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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

The storm-force gusts are the result of a tight pressure gradient formed by a high pressure system to the north and low pressure to the south, combined with cold, dense air squeezing through mountain passes and river channels. Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, "Howling winds trigger power outages and blowing-snow alerts," 29 Jan. 2018 Oppo isn’t the first phone company to be experimenting with color gradients, but the execution here is on point. Sam Byford, The Verge, "The OnePlus 6 is more than just a rebranded Oppo," 15 June 2018 The team used the standard machine learning technique of stochastic gradient descent to iteratively improve the two networks. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Google researchers created an amazing scene-rendering AI," 29 June 2018 To complete the audience, Abloh invited local design students, wooed by free T-shirts, to help cushion the crowds along his gradient catwalk., "At Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh Brings Diversity To Paris Fashion Week," 21 June 2018 For context, the average gradient on Mont Ventoux is about 7.5 percent. Alex Hutchinson, Outside Online, "You’re Faster with Friends, Even Uphill," 20 June 2018 Running on a treadmill set to a gradient of the hills on your race course is one solution. Jen Murphy, WSJ, "Cyclists Create an Alpine Training Regimen—in Delaware," 7 July 2018 There are filters, brush tools, gradients, smudging, cropping and erasing tools. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, "15 tech upgrades you can get for free," 15 June 2018 Windows and screens appear frequently here, as do drop shadows, flattened gradients and the odd perspectives of video games and digital animation. New York Times, "What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week," 27 June 2018

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.

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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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Statistics for gradient

Last Updated

9 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gradient

The first known use of gradient was in 1835

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English Language Learners Definition of gradient

: a place where the ground slopes up or down


gra·di·ent | \ ˈgrād-ē-ənt \

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

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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).


alleviating pain or harshness

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