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



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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 But to cut costs, nearly all of it has been built on city peripheries, in the same kinds of marginal areas that Black, Asian, and mixed-race South Africans were once confined by law. Ryan Lenora Brown, The Christian Science Monitor, "How South African activists hope to integrate cities built to divide," 11 Sep. 2020 The Orioles will likely continue on their rebuilding plan this winter: focusing on marginal acquisitions without blocking young players’ development. Tyler Kepner, New York Times, "The Orioles Looked Done. Now They’re Threatening the Yankees’ Playoff Plans.," 11 Sep. 2020 Many people still feel high SPF offers superior protection, while others feel there are only marginal differences in level of protection across the SPF spectrum. Sian Babish,, "The best body sunscreen," 9 Sep. 2020 But infections are also returning to areas that had managed to slow the spread of the virus, offsetting marginal gains. Arkansas Online, "India now 2nd behind US in virus cases amid economic pain," 7 Sep. 2020 Thousands more are living marginal lives in the urban neighborhoods of Matamoros. Dianne Solis, Dallas News, "Asylum-seekers in Matamoros fear they’ll be forgotten," 7 Sep. 2020 According to our modelling, the chance that a marginal state ends up in recount territory (typically when the margin between the candidates is less than half a percentage point) is around 5%, before factoring in trouble with vote-by-mail. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Markets: Remember, Remember the Third of November," 4 Sep. 2020 Vote for a marginal party or write in our displeasure with a noncandidate? Jesse A. Myerson, The New Republic, "The End of the Voter-Consumer," 2 Sep. 2020 Numerous counties stretching from southwest to eastern Central Arkansas are at a moderate risk, while most of the rest of the state is at a slight or marginal risk for flash flooding Wednesday, according to the briefing. Nyssa Kruse, Arkansas Online, "Most of Arkansas at risk for flash flooding Wednesday; west, central areas predicted to see greatest threat," 2 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for marginal

Time Traveler

The first known use of marginal was in 1573

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Statistics for marginal

Last Updated

17 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Marginal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2020.

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How to pronounce marginal (audio)

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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