: little-by-little, gradually
Did You Know?
"All the infections that the sun sucks up / From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall, and make him / By inch-meal a disease!" So goes one of the curses the hated and hateful Caliban hurls in the direction of Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest. The origin of "inchmeal" is simple; the "inch" half is the familiar measurement, and the "meal" is the suffix we know from the more common word "piecemeal" (which shares the "gradually" meaning of "inchmeal," and has several other meanings as well). "Meal" is an old suffix that means "by a (specified) portion or measure at a time"; it is related to the modern German word "mal," meaning "time," as in the German word "manchmal," meaning "sometimes."
The fog that had been concentrated over the valley dissipated inchmeal, revealing a quiet busyness in the small village below.
"I glanced at my Luminox wristwatch. The glowing dial showed 6:10.... Light came inchmeal, like torture. Another flock [of ducks] blew like rocket chaff across the gray-black sky. I sneaked another peek. 6:20." - From an article by Joe Doggett in The Houston Chronicle, December 19, 2012
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