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

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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 The gradual disappearance of fish is a death knell for Tombwa, a town of 50,000 that has little else to offer residents. Max Bearak, Washington Post, "A crisis in the water is decimating this once-booming fishing town," 27 Nov. 2019 It's worked for some: Olhoff offered South Africa as an example, as it's made gradual but important progress in phasing out coal power plants. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "Countries are not doing enough to keep Earth's temperature from rising to near-catastrophic levels, a UN report says," 26 Nov. 2019 More broadly, Narayan said, implementing facial recognition at airports accustoms Americans to the gradual encroachment of surveillance in the public sphere. Anchorage Daily News, "Federal facial recognition is coming to Sea-Tac Airport; Delta Air Lines will be first to use it," 24 Nov. 2019 Also, India can bargain hard for exclusion of some sensitive sectors, like dairy, and the gradual liberalisation of imports. Vk Vijayakumar, Quartz India, "India’s RCEP walkout shows its industry is still incompetent," 21 Nov. 2019 Conservatism—the reflexive inclination toward continuity and gradual progress rather than toward the disruptive spasm of revolt—may be Brexit’s biggest casualty in the nation’s public life. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "How George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” Resonates in the England of 2019," 21 Nov. 2019 Arcuri emphasizes the process has been ongoing and gradual, with the pair collaborating to create an energizing fuel plan., "Robert Williams can tell his body has changed. Even if he couldn’t, he looks a little different.," 21 Nov. 2019 As the storm moves off to the northeast overnight, there will be gradual clearing., "Cloudy Wednesday with chance of light showers," 19 Nov. 2019 It's been more of a gradual thing: a drip, drip, drip of doubt, disaffection, disease, discomfort. ... [and] compulsive overexercising. Daniel Arkin, NBC News, "'The Crown,' season three: Did Prince Philip really have a midlife crisis?," 18 Nov. 2019

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


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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for gradual

Last Updated

5 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Gradual.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 15 December 2019.

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More Definitions for gradual


How to pronounce gradual (audio)

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 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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on gradual

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gradual

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gradual

Spanish Central: Translation of gradual

Nglish: Translation of gradual for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gradual for Arabic Speakers

Comments on gradual

What made you want to look up gradual? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


delight or enjoyment

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