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

So the real question is: Would such a gradual shift constitute a painful sacrifice? Robert H. Frank, New York Times, "Would a Single-Payer System Require Painful Sacrifices From Doctors?," 8 June 2018 Establishing common standards for sharia compliance has been a gradual process, restricting the acceptability of the bonds in some jurisdictions., "Spreading Islamic Banking in Uganda, One Sermon at a Time," 27 Mar. 2018 This process is also gradual, and some materials including water hold onto heat longer than do others, such as soil or rocks. Science Buddies, Scientific American, "Warm in the Sun," 12 July 2018 Stanton’s awakening on all fronts was very gradual. Andrew M. Davenport, Smithsonian, "Putting Enslaved Families’ Stories Back in the Monticello Narrative," 14 June 2018 To be politically feasible, any cuts in the purchasing power of doctors and other service providers would have to be gradual and take the form of lower rates of salary growth, not outright salary reductions. Robert H. Frank, New York Times, "Would a Single-Payer System Require Painful Sacrifices From Doctors?," 8 June 2018 Alcohol dependence and addiction is gradual and takes place over time. Amy Dickinson,, "Mother worries about daughter’s heavy drinking," 4 June 2018 Stops are relatively gradual and trains are long, requiring precision in finally coming to a halt so that all doors are facing the platform. Kevin Spear,, "SunRail trains driven by women engineers for 1st time," 30 May 2018 Still Gradual Lowe maintained his view that progress in lowering unemployment and returning inflation to the 2.5 percent midpoint of its target would be gradual., "Australia’s Central Bank Holds Rates at Record-Low 1.5%," 3 Apr. 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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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).


alleviating pain or harshness

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