mar·​gin·​al | \ˈmärj-nəl, ˈmär-jə-nᵊl\

Definition of marginal 

1 : written or printed in the margin of a page or sheet marginal notes

2a : of, relating to, or situated at a margin or border

b : not of central importance regards violence as a marginal rather than a central problem also : limited in extent, significance, or stature had only marginal success with the business

c(1) : occupying the borderland of a relatively stable territorial or cultural area marginal tribes

(2) : characterized by the incorporation of habits and values from two divergent (see divergent sense 1) cultures and by incomplete assimilation (see assimilate entry 1 sense 2a) in either the marginal cultural habits of new immigrant groups

(3) : excluded from or existing outside the mainstream of society, a group, or a school of thought marginal voters

3 : located at the fringe of consciousness marginal sensations

4a : close to the lower limit of qualification, acceptability, or function : barely exceeding the minimum requirements a semiliterate person of marginal ability

b(1) : having a character or capacity fitted to yield a supply of goods which when marketed at existing price levels will barely cover the cost of production marginal land

(2) : of, relating to, or derived from goods produced and marketed with such result marginal profits

5 : relating to or being a function of a random variable that is obtained from a function of several random variables by integrating or summing over all possible values of the other variables a marginal probability function

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Other Words from marginal

marginality \ ˌmär-​jə-​ˈna-​lə-​tē \ noun
marginally \ ˈmärj-​nə-​lē , ˈmär-​jə-​nᵊl-​ē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for marginal


borderline, frontier



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Examples of marginal in a Sentence

There has been only a marginal improvement in her condition. His reading and writing abilities are marginal.

Recent Examples on the Web

Drink: Vignoble de l'Orpailleur L'Orpailleur brings 40 years of experience making wines in one of the country’s most marginal climates, and its shop (and tasting room) is a must-stop for any oenophile traveling through the Eastern Townships. Isa Tousignant, Condé Nast Traveler, "3 Best Day Trips From Montreal," 17 Aug. 2018 This is wishful thinking, confusing what activists are hankering for with what marginal Democratic voters might want. The Economist, "Fork in the roadShould the party move to the left or to the centre?," 12 July 2018 Soutine has long been a marginal figure in modern-art history. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "The Vulnerable Ferocity of Chaim Soutine," 7 May 2018 But, of course, there’s no indication that this represents actual policy as opposed to the ramblings of a president who is a strangely marginal figure in his own administration. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The 4 stories that drove this week in politics," 30 Mar. 2018 Mkhitaryan has been a marginal figure at United in recent months, with Jesse Lingard starting ahead of him behind Lukaku. USA TODAY, "Arsenal, Manchester United complete swap deal for Sanchez, Mkhitaryan," 22 Jan. 2018 The Democratic leadership tends to divide candidates into centrists, who can win in marginal districts, and lefties, who are fine in safe seats but will lose otherwise winnable ones. The Economist, "Fork in the roadShould the party move to the left or to the centre?," 12 July 2018 My profession is marginal in society compared to others, like medicine or law. Anthony Alofsin, The Atlantic, "A Defense of the Suburbs," 6 June 2018 And he's carried a Blazers roster that is marginal outside of guard CJ McCollum. John Canzano,, "Canzano: Damian Lillard gets First Team All-NBA nod... and another meeting with Paul Allen?," 24 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'marginal.' 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 marginal

1573, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for marginal

Medieval Latin marginalis, from Latin margin-, margo

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Statistics for marginal

Last Updated

17 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for marginal

The first known use of marginal was in 1573

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English Language Learners Definition of marginal

: not very important

: very slight or small

: not included in the main part of society or of a group


mar·​gin·​al | \ˈmärj-nəl, -ən-ᵊl \

Medical Definition of marginal 

1 : of, relating to, or situated at a margin or border

2 : located at the fringe of consciousness marginal sensations

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More from Merriam-Webster on marginal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for marginal

Spanish Central: Translation of marginal

Nglish: Translation of marginal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of marginal for Arabic Speakers

Comments on marginal

What made you want to look up marginal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a private place of worship

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