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

Keep scrolling for more

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



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Nearly 40% of the unemployed in the OECD face a marginal rate higher than 80% on taking a job. The Economist, "The welfare state needs updating," 12 July 2018 Some analysts believe that Permian production could decline, or at least grow more slowly, in 2019 or 2020 as energy companies move from their best acreage to more marginal areas. David Koenig,, "U.S. soon to surpass Saudis, Russia as top oil producer," 11 July 2018 If prices were too high, patients would demand less care, and marginal providers would exit the market. Sally C. Pipes, Fortune, "Why Does the Left Want Universal Health Care? Britain’s Is on Its Deathbed," 10 July 2018 After those three shoo-ins, a stronge case can be made for at least four more Astros to make the team, and a more marginal case can be made for a few more. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "Making the case for record-breaking Astros' All-Star Game," 7 July 2018 Some New Jerseyans may exit when the marginal income tax on residents making more than $5 million jumps to 10.75%, but their desire to escape onerous taxes does not always mean an abandonment of faith in the Democratic Party. WSJ, "Garden State Tax Refugees May Re-Create Their Woes," 6 July 2018 Meanwhile, many cyclists have turned to abusing legal drugs for marginal gains, getting away with it through therapeutic-use exemptions, or TUEs. Marc Peruzzi, Outside Online, "Stop Boycotting Pro Cycling," 6 July 2018 CBS Miami chief meteorologist Craig Setzer says Beryl remains a very small tropical storm surrounded by dry air, marginal water temperatures and soon, increasingly hostile wind shear. CBS News, "Tropical Storm Beryl forms in the Atlantic," 5 July 2018 Some analysts believe that Permian production could decline, or at least grow more slowly, in 2019 or 2020 as energy companies move from their best acreage to more marginal areas. David Koenig, The Christian Science Monitor, "US expected to surpass Saudi Arabia, Russia as world's top oil producer," 12 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about marginal

Statistics for marginal

Last Updated

25 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for marginal

The first known use of marginal was in 1573

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for marginal



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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


occurring twice a year or every two years

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!