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

But the rest of Russia has experienced five years of gradual economic decline, and with that has come an erosion in trust for the authorities. Will Englund, Washington Post, "Moscow protests take center stage for Russia’s next act," 8 Aug. 2019 One of the most compelling aspects of the third season of The Handmaid's Tale is its gradual expansion of Gilead's power structure beyond its regimented, puritanical facade. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Handmaid's Tale," 1 Aug. 2019 Others say Universal’s wage increase is in direct response to Walt Disney World Resort, which approved a new union contract last year that raises the $10 minimum pay to $15 by October 2021 through a series of gradual increases. Gabrielle Russon,, "Epic Universe theme park at Universal Orlando will push wages to $15 an hour. Is it enough?," 1 Aug. 2019 Since then both countries have suffered a gradual decline. M.j., The Economist, "The Ashes will feature the weakest pair of cricket teams in decades," 31 July 2019 Their gradual advances in the sciences of war would always be accompanied . . . M. D. Aeschliman, National Review, "History as Wisdom: Thomas Carlyle vs. the ‘Perfectibilarians’," 20 July 2019 In Hartford, gradual efforts to address climate change would result in Connecticut’s Capitol City seeing 34 days a year with heat topping 90 degrees. Gregory B. Hladky,, "Climate change could mean as many as 44 days with temperatures above 90 in Hartford, according to report by Union of Concerned Scientists," 16 July 2019 But that result is unclear, as 2017 might be an outlier and the 2018 scores could fit the trendline of the district’s gradual decline over the last few years. Patrick O'donnell,, "Has state ‘takeover’ improved struggling schools? Test scores say no," 24 June 2019 That gradual decline opened a window in which the conditions were right for life to form and remain. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "When did life have a chance on Mars? After giant meteorites stopped hitting it 4.4 billion years ago," 24 June 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

15 Aug 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).


a haphazard or makeshift solution

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