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 The latest outbreak can be managed with more gradual measures, Mr. Pierluisi said, citing the existence of virus treatments, a contact tracing system in Puerto Rico’s municipalities and the availability of vaccines. New York Times, "Puerto Rico Just Had Its ‘Worst Moment’ for Covid-19," 23 Apr. 2021 But India’s recent rate of increasing cases has been far faster than in the country’s previous wave, and swifter than the more gradual increases widely seen elsewhere. Vibhuti Agarwal, WSJ, "What We Know About India’s ‘Double Mutant’ Covid-19 Variant," 23 Apr. 2021 Last week, after months of wrangling between the district and wary teachers union officials, the district began a gradual and partial reopening of schools serving its 465,000 students. Selene Rivera, Los Angeles Times, "‘Our lives are hanging by a thread’: Latino parents with chronic diseases fear COVID-19 as schools reopen," 22 Apr. 2021 Brown disclosed his intention to retire during a meeting of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority that presented updates on a gradual but promising rebound from the pandemic and the work left to complete construction of a $2.7 billion terminal. Kevin Spear,, "Orlando airport director Phil Brown says he wants a transition plan for his retirement," 21 Apr. 2021 There are hopes that the rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines in the U.K. and the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions will see the economy make up some of that lost output this year. Pan Pylas, Star Tribune, "Pandemic 'exposed' UK households' finances, report finds," 21 Apr. 2021 The gradual evolution of the automobile has meant that different innovations have arrived at different times, and leaping back 90 years in automotive history makes for a strange combination of the familiar and the utterly alien. Mike Duff, Car and Driver, "2021 Bentley Blower Continuation Revives Bentley's Past," 21 Apr. 2021 Strong growth in the digital business, with digital subscribers reaching an all-time high in June as well as gradual re-openings of studio locations, has led to the stock beating the overall market. Trefis Team, Forbes, "What To Expect From WW International Stock Post Q1 Earnings?," 21 Apr. 2021 Thursday is very chilly by late-April standards, with only gradual moderation into the weekend as a storm system brings clouds and rain later on Saturday into Sunday. Washington Post, "D.C.-area forecast: Terrific Tuesday before a big cold front sweeps through Wednesday," 20 Apr. 2021

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

27 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gradual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 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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