mar·​gin·​al | \ ˈmärj-nəl How to pronounce marginal (audio) , 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

Other Words from marginal

marginality \ ˌmär-​jə-​ˈna-​lə-​tē How to pronounce marginal (audio) \ noun
marginally \ ˈmärj-​nə-​lē How to pronounce marginal (audio) , ˈmär-​jə-​nᵊl-​ē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for marginal



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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 Experts say that with crude oil prices hovering around $100 a barrel, generating billions of dollars a day, the pilgrimage's economic benefit is marginal by comparison. Abbas Al Lawati, CNN, 6 July 2022 The biggest misconception is actually over relative oil and ethanol prices, not so much whether more ethanol use in the U.S. will lower world oil prices—the impact will be marginal—but the idea that ethanol is cheaper than gasoline. Michael Lynch, Forbes, 6 June 2022 A day after Rowan became CEO on March 21, Volvo Car warned delivery growth will be marginal this year because another disturbance in semiconductor supply will hamper production for months. Craig Trudell,, 29 Mar. 2022 The magnitude of each trade-off is difficult to quantify and may, in some cases, be marginal. Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, 23 Mar. 2022 The new model's brakes are marginal for track use, but with high-temp DOT 4 brake fluid added by Subaru, the BRZ will survive two consecutive laps without any pedal-to-the-floor issues. Rich Ceppos, Car and Driver, 7 Feb. 2022 Some recent candidates who have done that are relatively marginal ones. Nicholas Riccardi, Anchorage Daily News, 16 July 2022 Some recent candidates who have done that are relatively marginal ones. Nicholas Riccardi,, 16 July 2022 In marginal cases, an official recession declaration — and the attendant media attention — can create markedly worse outcomes than weak economies that barely escape recession. Ben Casselman, New York Times, 15 July 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for marginal

Time Traveler

The first known use of marginal was in 1573

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Dictionary Entries Near marginal



marginal blight

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Statistics for marginal

Last Updated

1 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Marginal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for marginal


mar·​gin·​al | \ ˈmärj-nəl, -ən-ᵊl How to pronounce marginal (audio) \

Medical Definition of marginal

1 : of, relating to, or situated at a margin or border
2 : located at the fringe of consciousness marginal sensations

More from Merriam-Webster on marginal

Nglish: Translation of marginal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of marginal for Arabic Speakers


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