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 French unions hailed the decision as a victory for workers, and said the resumption of activity would be gradual and voluntary, with half the workers returning between May 19 and 25 and the rest by June 2. Liz Alderman,, "Amazon reaches deal with French unions in coronavirus safety dispute," 16 May 2020 French unions hailed the decision as a victory for workers, and said the resumption of activity would be gradual and voluntary, with half the workers returning between May 19 and 25 and the rest by June 2. Liz Alderman, New York Times, "Amazon Reaches Deal With French Unions in Coronavirus Safety Dispute," 16 May 2020 The nature of shopping itself has radically changed, moving away from slow, gradual browsing and deal-hunting, and toward quick, organized retrieval. Anne Nickoloff, cleveland, "Retail reopens in Ohio: Malls, shopping centers adopt cautious approach," 12 May 2020 Such examples of corporations helping a broader community are spurring hopes among some that the coronavirus crisis can hasten a shift – even if the steps may be modest and gradual – toward a more benevolent capitalism. Laurent Belsie, The Christian Science Monitor, "Is this crisis giving capitalism a moral nudge?," 8 May 2020 Tryon Creek is acting as something of a test case for the reopening of Oregon state park sites, a process that park officials said will be gradual and instituted on a case-by-case basis. oregonlive, "Hikers return to Tryon Creek in Portland as some Oregon state parks reopen," 6 May 2020 New York’s daily death toll from the novel coronavirusis continuing to drop, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, and now health officials are closely studying the outbreak’s trajectory to determine whether its decline will be quick or gradual. Ben Chapman, WSJ, "New York Looks for Clues as Coronavirus Outbreak Hits Next Phase," 20 Apr. 2020 Our efforts to move forward with safely reopening Oregon will be gradual, incremental, and based on science and data. oregonlive, "Gov. Kate Brown extends Oregon coronavirus state of emergency to July 6," 2 May 2020 Even Newsom, who led the charge on social distancing, said Tuesday that a gradual, phased return to normal could begin in weeks rather than months. Steve Lopezcolumnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Don’t endanger your friends and family. Patience, please, and stay off the beach," 29 Apr. 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 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gradual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2020.

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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.

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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

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