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

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

Just like with my fitness and skin, the improvement in my mental health was gradual. Laura Anderson, Glamour, "Quitting Drinking Didn’t Make All My Dreams Come True," 15 May 2019 While the Rockets’ surge might appear to be sudden — with six games remaining Judson has already matched its district win total from last year — their turnaround has been a gradual progression. Adam Zuvanich, San Antonio Express-News, "From farce to force: Judson enjoying turnaround season," 5 Apr. 2018 Shulkin, like most veterans groups, preferred to take a gradual approach to reform; the hard-liners want rapid action to free our servicemen and women from the horrors of socialized medicine. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Replaces Veterans Affairs Secretary With His Personal Doctor," 28 Mar. 2018 In glide bombing, the angle of descent is more gradual than in dive bombing and the ascent much sharper. Popular Mechanics, "How the D-Day Invasion Was Planned," 6 June 2017 The 68-year-old, who was not named in the case report published by the New England Journal of Medicine, had complained of a weeklong fever and the gradual painful swelling of lymph nodes. Alexandria Hein, Fox News, "Man's painful bacterial infection linked to pet cat," 12 Sep. 2018 Matthews’ 34 goals led the Maple Leafs; Laine’s 43 for Winnipeg were second in the NHL; Hischier’s 48 points were second on the Devils; and Patrick’s 30 and gradual improvement earned him a promotion to the Flyers’ second-line center spot. Washington Post, "Top picks from 2016 and 2017 are unfazed by playoff pressure," 18 Apr. 2018 But economists have said 2018 should continue a trend of gradual improvement in new-home construction that will remain well below normal levels. Wsj Staff, WSJ, "Global Economy Week Ahead: Global Growth Forecasts, U.S. Retail Sales and Housing Starts," 11 Mar. 2018 Microsoft Teams is moving ahead in its gradual replacement of Skype for Business, which was once Microsoft’s go-to solution for collaborating via video or text. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft Teams taps AI to boost new background, whiteboarding features," 19 Mar. 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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Statistics for gradual

Last Updated

23 May 2019

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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 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

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

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).


highly pertinent or appropriate

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