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 And the party’s divisions are likely to grow more pronounced as Biden begins to push his broader legislative agenda, with progressives pushing for ambitious legislation, while vulnerable moderates in purple districts urge a more gradual approach. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Biden scored a win on COVID relief, but the battle for hearts and minds is far from over," 14 Mar. 2021 Myers, a Black woman who is two years into recovery from a car accident, saw a physician to check on her gradual progress, while Brown, who is white, got a cutting-edge injection to treat asthma, arranged through his concierge doctor. Olivia Goldhill, STAT, "In Palm Beach, Covid-19 vaccines intended for rural Black communities are instead going to wealthy white Floridians," 4 Mar. 2021 While a gradual approach is often wise, there are some areas where automation can make a positive impact and deliver immediate value without risk. Jonathan Rende, Forbes, "Why Automation Shouldn’t Be An All-Or-Nothing Option For IT," 3 Mar. 2021 Such a gradual approach can be frustrating, especially for people who had previously been very active. Anne Marie Chaker, WSJ, "How to Resume Exercise After Having Covid," 1 Mar. 2021 The gradual approach was deemed necessary to study the shock waves that caused extreme turbulence as a vehicle approached supersonic speed. Derek Wallbank,, "Chuck Yeager, U.S. Pilot Who Broke the Sound Barrier, Dies at 97," 8 Dec. 2020 That's meant a more gradual approach to loosening regulations under Phase 3, which the rest of the state entered in full last month. Jessica Williams,, "Eased coronavirus rules likely delayed for New Orleans, keeping indoor bars closed for Halloween," 26 Oct. 2020 Saturday was the first day that bars could have outdoor seats under guidelines set by Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who is taking a more gradual approach than the state. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Arches National Park, ski resorts, Amtrak: News from around our 50 states," 20 Oct. 2020 For example, among the strategies recommended by the AADA are identifying your nail-biting triggers, keeping your nails clipped short, and taking a gradual approach (as in, just work on stopping biting one fingernail at a time). Emily Rekstis, SELF, "I Tried 5 Hacks to Stop Biting My Nails and Only 1 Made a Difference," 7 Sep. 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.

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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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Last Updated

22 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gradual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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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Comments on gradual

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