noun, often capitalized
grad·​u·​al | \ ˈgra-jə-wəl, -jəl, ˈgraj-wəl\

Definition of gradual

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a book containing the choral parts of the Mass
2 : a pair of verses (as from the Psalms) proper after the Epistle in the Mass



Definition of gradual (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : proceeding by steps or degrees
2 : moving, changing, or developing by fine or often imperceptible degrees

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Other Words from gradual


gradually adverb
gradualness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for gradual

Synonyms: Adjective

gradational, incremental, phased, piecemeal, step-by-step

Antonyms: Adjective

abrupt, sudden

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Examples of gradual in a Sentence


We noticed a gradual change in temperature. The hospital has made gradual improvements in health care.

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Waymo's rollout has been so gradual that no single step makes much of a splash. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Waymo’s excruciatingly gradual launch process, explained," 31 Oct. 2018 For Ingram, the return was just the next step in a gradual process. Tania Ganguli,, "Brandon Ingram's return helps fuel Lakers' win over Mavericks," 29 Mar. 2018 As the study notes, the widespread adoption of Christianity in Iceland was a gradual process that took place throughout the latter half of the 10th century. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "A Violent Volcanic Eruption Immortalized in Medieval Poem May Have Spurred Iceland’s Adoption of Christianity," 23 Mar. 2018 There’s a gradual progression from traditional forms and vertical structure at the front of the house to more modern, open, horizontal spaces at the rear. Douglas Brenner, House Beautiful, "Bill Shakespeare Would Be Proud To Live In This House," 5 Oct. 2018 Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the joints, potentially including the ones in your neck, leading to painful swelling and gradual damage to your bones and joints, the Cleveland Clinic explains. Korin Miller, SELF, "5 Possible Causes Behind That Annoying Neck Pain," 18 Sep. 2018 This gradual start in Pittsburgh also gives Uber time to implement some of the safety features and changes recommended by an internal team of experts that conducted a review of the company’s self-driving development and operation. Johana Bhuiyan, Recode, "Months after a self-driving crash, Uber is being slower and more deliberate as it gets back on public roads to test its technology," 24 July 2018 With few exceptions, old homes are and always have been living documents that reflect gradual changes in the lives of their inhabitants and the world around them. Kate Wagner, Curbed, "To renovate or not to renovate?," 5 Sep. 2018 Graduation photos dating back to the 1920s show the town’s gradual population change as more black and Latino residents moved here, though black and white students have gone to school together since the town’s beginning. Peter Nickeas,, "A small Michigan town mourns a 12-year-old girl slain in Chicago: 'She’s here with us'," 3 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gradual.' 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 gradual


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1658, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gradual


Middle English, from Medieval Latin graduale, from Latin gradus step; from its being sung on the steps of the altar


Medieval Latin gradualis, from Latin gradus

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Time Traveler for gradual

The first known use of gradual was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for gradual



English Language Learners Definition of gradual

: moving or changing in small amounts : happening in a slow way over a long period of time

: not steep


grad·​u·​al | \ ˈgra-jə-wəl \

Kids Definition of gradual

: moving or happening by steps or degrees We watched the gradual approach of the train.

Other Words from gradual

gradually adverb Rain gradually ended.

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More from Merriam-Webster on gradual

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gradual

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gradual

Spanish Central: Translation of gradual

Nglish: Translation of gradual for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gradual for Arabic Speakers

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