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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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

That creates more heat, and because of the temperature gradient that heat forces the moisture to the outside of the jacket. James Lynch, Popular Mechanics, "How To Camp in the Rain Like a Pro," 5 Aug. 2019 Tart-makers slice rhubarb into diamonds or form squares, some play on the natural gradient of the plant’s colors from light green to dark red. Julia O'malley, Anchorage Daily News, "Get your M.C. Escher on with a geometric rhubarb tart," 5 July 2019 Yet lower down in the troposphere, the opposite is taking place: Temperature changes are weakening the temperature gradient, and are expected to slacken the jet stream. Andrew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, "Buckle up: Climate change is already contributing to bumpier North Atlantic flights, study finds," 7 Aug. 2019 The colour gradient was supposed to act as visual metaphor for soil to sky, which is a lovely sentiment, but brown doesn't belong on any football shirt., "50 Worst Football Shirts of All Time," 3 July 2019 Sideways: On the vertiginous Glacier Express, wine glasses feature slanted stems to prevent spills on the steep gradients. National Geographic, "Fun Facts About the Swiss and Italian Alps," 26 Mar. 2019 Western bluebirds, in contrast, nested at sites along the full noise gradient. Amy Mathews Amos, Scientific American, "Oil- and Gas-Drilling Noise Stresses Birds," 1 Apr. 2018 One week later, the researchers found that a single egg could experience a temperature gradient of up to 4.7°C. Katie Camero, Science | AAAS, "Turtle embryos may determine their own sex—by seeking the perfect temperature," 1 Aug. 2019 The concentration gradient behaves similarly, but this time just barely dips below the suppressor threshold at column 46. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘The DNA Computer Program’," 27 Apr. 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 2019

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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 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on gradient

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gradient

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gradient

Spanish Central: Translation of gradient

Nglish: Translation of gradient for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gradient for Arabic Speakers

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).


concealment of treason or felony

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