grad·​u·​al | \ ˈgra-jə-wəl How to pronounce gradual (audio) , -jəl, ˈgraj-wəl \

Definition of gradual

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : moving, changing, or developing by fine or often imperceptible degrees
2 : proceeding by steps or degrees


noun, often capitalized

Definition of gradual (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a book containing the choral parts of the Mass
2 : a pair of verses (as from the Psalms) proper after the Epistle in the Mass

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Other Words from gradual


gradually adverb
gradualness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for gradual

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of gradual in a Sentence

Adjective We noticed a gradual change in temperature. The hospital has made gradual improvements in health care.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The fact that jobs gains have slowed will probably lead the Fed to take a gradual approach to tapering. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, 8 Oct. 2021 Think of it as a digital evolution: a continual, gradual approach to employee experience. Jim Van Over, Forbes, 11 Sep. 2021 That is despite polls suggesting that the English public prefers a more gradual approach to reopening. New York Times, 21 July 2021 Prior to this week, the Biden Administration had been taking a more gradual approach. Alana Abramson, Time, 10 June 2021 The gradual approach begins immediately with a recommendation that people maintain three feet, not six, from others. Stephen Hudak,, 28 Apr. 2021 But of course Canadians also know their homegrown Lululemon and are very used to shopping there, hence a gradual approach. Phil Wahba, Fortune, 20 Apr. 2021 Wolf had said last week that the state was taking a more gradual approach in hopes of avoiding the kind of bottleneck that occurred when Pennsylvania rapidly expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older in January. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 13 Apr. 2021 California’s public health officials will most likely take a gradual approach, first allowing those who are vaccinated to gather together maskless, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised. Aidin Vaziri, San Francisco Chronicle, 7 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gradual.' 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 gradual


1658, in the meaning defined at sense 2


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gradual


Medieval Latin gradualis, from Latin gradus


Middle English, from Medieval Latin graduale, from Latin gradus step; from its being sung on the steps of the altar

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Time Traveler for gradual

Time Traveler

The first known use of gradual was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near gradual

gradocol membrane



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Last Updated

12 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gradual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for gradual



English Language Learners Definition of gradual

: moving or changing in small amounts : happening in a slow way over a long period of time
: not steep


grad·​u·​al | \ ˈgra-jə-wəl How to pronounce gradual (audio) \

Kids Definition of gradual

: moving or happening by steps or degrees We watched the gradual approach of the train.

Other Words from gradual

gradually adverb Rain gradually ended.

More from Merriam-Webster on gradual

Nglish: Translation of gradual for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gradual for Arabic Speakers


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