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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from gradual


gradually adverb
gradualness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for gradual

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, predicted a gradual change in the number of COVID-19 cases during a press conference on Tuesday. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "'A hump instead of a peak': Fauci predicts gradual reduction in coronavirus cases," 17 Mar. 2020 But Gomez and others also lamented the gradual changes that occurred at Cafe Flore, starting in the early 2000s, when a series of new owners took over, the decor changed and some observed a drop in food quality. Janelle Bitker,, "Remembering Cafe Flore, a 47-year-old Castro institution with an uncertain future," 10 Jan. 2020 This year’s 20% increase in Mexico’s minimum wage was among reasons that central bankers opted to maintain a gradual pace of interest-rate cuts in December despite a deteriorating economic growth outlook, minutes to the meeting showed Thursday. Anthony Harrup, WSJ, "Minimum Wage Rise Helped Keep Bank of Mexico Cautious," 2 Jan. 2020 The erosion has been gradual enough that many Americans have become inured to it, numb to the alarm. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, "Why Democracy Is on the Decline in the United States," 10 Mar. 2020 Advocates say these laws have caused a gradual decrease in the number of clinics in the state. Kristofer Rios, ABC News, "'Last clinic' standing? Critics fear abortion case before Supreme Court could have nationwide impact on abortion facilities," 7 Mar. 2020 Cincinnati weather forecast: Thursday: Mostly cloudy, then gradual clearing during the afternoon, with a high near 57. Overnight chance of rain and snow showers, mainly after 4 a.m. Low around 34. Sarah Brookbank,, "Cincinnati weather: Snow on Friday, highs in the 60s on Sunday," 4 Mar. 2020 The second has a more tame, tapered onset and a more gradual offset. Sarah Scoles, Wired, "How UFO Sightings Became an American Obsession," 3 Mar. 2020 The rate cut is larger than the quarter-point moves the Fed had made in 2019 during more gradual, previous rate cuts. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Federal Reserve delivers surprise interest rate cut amid coronavirus scare," 3 Mar. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gradual

Time Traveler for gradual

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for gradual

Last Updated

27 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gradual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

March 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • field of crocuses
  • Which is a synonym of rectitudinous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!