grad·​u·​al | \ ˈgra-jə-wəl How to pronounce gradual (audio) , -jəl, ˈgraj-wəl \

Definition of gradual

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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


noun, often capitalized

Definition of gradual (Entry 2 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

Other Words from gradual


gradually adverb
gradualness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for gradual

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of gradual in a Sentence

Adjective We noticed a gradual change in temperature. The hospital has made gradual improvements in health care.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective That evolution has been gradual and smooth, and was also spelled out by the government in recent policy positions. CNN, 16 May 2022 After a gradual and somewhat suspenseful trickle of game releases all week, the NFL on Thursday finally unveiled its full slate of matchups for the 2022 season. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, 13 May 2022 All in all, an informed strategy coupled with gradual but steady change is the key to success. Yinglian Xie, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2022 But the move toward greater leniency has been gradual and not without resistance. Felicia Fonseca, The Arizona Republic, 10 Apr. 2022 But the move toward greater leniency has been gradual and not without resistance. Felicia Fonseca, ajc, 9 Apr. 2022 Again, the energy transition won’t be gradual or smooth. Sammy Rothstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 7 Apr. 2022 However, these products work internally, just like the multivitamins people take, and their benefits may be gradual and subtle. Michael Jaffe, The Conversation, 15 Mar. 2022 The Huskies, after three losing seasons in a row, and a five-year stretch without an NCAA bid, have made a gradual but steady climb back to national relevance. Dom Amore,, 12 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of gradual


1658, in the meaning defined at sense 2


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gradual


Medieval Latin gradualis, from Latin gradus


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

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Time Traveler for gradual

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

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Dictionary Entries Near gradual

gradocol membrane



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Last Updated

21 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Gradual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for gradual


grad·​u·​al | \ ˈgra-jə-wəl How to pronounce gradual (audio) \

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on gradual

Nglish: Translation of gradual for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gradual for Arabic Speakers


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