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 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 The center has issued a marginal risk -- level 1 of 4 -- for excessive rainfall and flash flooding spanning an area from northern Virginia to northwest Maine. Judson Jones, CNN, 8 Sep. 2021 Storm Prediction Center has placed part of Alabama in a marginal risk for severe weather today. Leigh Morgan, al, 21 Aug. 2021 There will be a marginal risk for severe weather on Thursday, with a risk of damaging winds and hail, but those storms will be more isolated than Wednesday's storms, Varcie said. Minnah Arshad, Detroit Free Press, 13 Aug. 2021 Greater Cincinnati is under a marginal risk for isolated severe storms and at a slight risk for excessive rainfall. Sarah Brookbank, The Enquirer, 17 July 2021 The anthropologist David Graeber was a pathbreaking theorist, a committed activist, and an ally to the marginal and the downtrodden — a public intellectual in every sense. Tiana Reid, Vulture, 31 Aug. 2021 One of the main components of President Biden’s tax plan is to increase the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and increase the top marginal rate from 37% to 39.6%. David Mcguire, Forbes, 31 Aug. 2021 Texas also has no income tax whereas a married couple in California making more than $117,000 pays a top marginal rate of 9.3%—more than millionaires in most states. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 16 Aug. 2021 Literary ethics prompts us to attend to the unheard and the marginal; curiosity or impatience with the same old stuff sends us in search of the forgotten and the neglected. New York Times, 25 Mar. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near marginal



marginal blight

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Last Updated

18 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Marginal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Sep. 2021.

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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 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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