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

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Other Words from marginal

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

The ability to do functional testing, then, provides the ability to test organs judged to be marginal and determine accurately whether they should be used. San Diego Union-Tribune, "New system could save more patients needing transplants for lung, liver or heart," 5 July 2019 An unworkable wealth tax and a top marginal income tax rate of 70 percent or higher are also okay. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Democratic Candidates Aren’t on a Winning Track," 4 July 2019 The former Texas congressman surprised many early in the debate by responding to a question about marginal tax rates in his rudimentary Español., "Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker get memed for speaking Spanish at the debate," 27 June 2019 Some improvement and marginal declines for a player who needs to be a more complete hitter. Jeff Wilson, star-telegram, "In a development season for Rangers, how is the development going?," 2 July 2018 Meanwhile, Mobile remains the state's second most populated county despite a marginal decline in population. Lawrence Specker,, "Census figures: Baldwin booms on, Mobile County holds on," 22 Mar. 2018 The Storm Prediction Center has included south Alabama in a marginal risk for severe storms today. Leigh Morgan,, "Isolated strong storms possible today for part of south Alabama," 25 June 2019 There is a slight risk of severe thunderstorms on the northeast plains and Palmer Divide and a marginal risk of severe weather along the front range on Monday, said Evan Direnzo, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, "Denver weather: Marginal risk of egg-sized hail, heavy rain and wind gusts up to 60 mph over Front Range," 17 June 2019 Danny Lyon has spent much of his career taking intimate photographs of marginal, working-class, and outlaw communities. Max Nelson, The New York Review of Books, "Max Nelson," 6 June 2019

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

14 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for marginal

The first known use of marginal was in 1573

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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 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

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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).


to form ideas or theories about something

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