# by degrees

## degree

[dih-gree]
noun
1.
any of a series of steps or stages, as in a process or course of action; a point in any scale.
2.
a stage or point in or as if in progression or retrogression: We followed the degrees of her recovery with joy.
3.
a stage in a scale of intensity or amount: a high degree of mastery.
4.
extent, measure, scope, or the like: To what degree will he cooperate?
5.
a stage in a scale of rank or station; relative standing in society, business, etc.: His uncouth behavior showed him to be a man of low degree.
6.
Education. an academic title conferred by universities and colleges as an indication of the completion of a course of study, or as an honorary recognition of achievement.
7.
a unit of measure, as of temperature or pressure, marked off on the scale of a measuring instrument: This thermometer shows a scale of degrees between only 20° and 40° C.
8.
Geometry. the 360th part of a complete angle or turn, often represented by the sign°, as in 45°, which is read as 45 degrees. Compare angle1 ( def 1c ).
9.
the distinctive classification of a crime according to its gravity: murder in the first degree.
10.
Grammar. one of the parallel formations of adjectives and adverbs used to express differences in quality, quantity, or intensity. In English, low and careful are the positive degree, lower and more careful are the comparative degree, lowest and most careful are the superlative degree.
11.
Mathematics.
a.
the sum of the exponents of the variables in an algebraic term: x 3 and 2x 2 y are terms of degree three.
b.
the term of highest degree of a given equation or polynomial: The expression 3x 2 y + y 2 + 1 is of degree three.
c.
the exponent of the derivative of highest order appearing in a given differential equation.
12.
Music. a tone or step of the scale.
13.
Astrology. any of the 360 equal divisions of the ecliptic measured counterclockwise from the vernal equinox. Each of the 12 signs of the zodiac contains 30 degrees.
14.
a certain distance or remove in the line of descent, determining the proximity of relationship: a cousin of the second degree.
15.
Archaic. a line or point on the earth or the celestial sphere, as defined by degrees of latitude.
16.
Obsolete. a step, as of a stair.
17.
by degrees, by easy stages; gradually: She grew angrier by degrees.
18.
to a degree,
a.
to a considerable extent; exceedingly.
b.
to a small extent; somewhat: He is to a degree difficult to get along with.

Origin:
1200–50; Middle English degre < Anglo-French, Old French < Vulgar Latin *dēgradus; see de-, grade

predegree, noun

2. step, mark, grade, level, phase.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013.
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World English Dictionary

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

degree
early 13c., from O.Fr. degre "a degree, step, rank," from V.L. *degradus "a step," from L.L. degredare, from L. de- "down" + gradus "step" (see grade). Most modern senses date from M.E., from notion of a hierarchy of steps. Meaning "a grade of crime" is 1670s; that of "a unit
of temperature" is from 1727. The division of the circle into 360 degrees is very ancient and was known in Babylon and Egypt. It is perhaps from the daily motion of the sun through the zodiac in the course of a year.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

degree de·gree (dĭ-grē')
n.

1. Abbr. deg, deg. A unit of measure on a temperature scale.

2. A division of a circle, equal to 1/360 of its circumference.

3. A position or rank within a graded series.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
 degree   (dĭ-grē')  Pronunciation Key  A unit division of a temperature scale. A unit for measuring an angle or an arc of a circle. One degree is 1/360 of the circumference of a circle. This unit used to measure latitude or longitude on the Earth's surface. The greatest sum of the exponents of the variables in a term of a polynomial or polynomial equation. For example, x3 + 2xy + x is of the third degree.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

### degree definition

In geometry, a unit of measurement of angles, 1/360 of a circle. In physics, a unit of temperature (see Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin scale). A degree on the Fahrenheit scale is smaller than a degree on the Celsius or Kelvin scale. Degrees on the Celsius and Kelvin scales are the same size.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

by degrees

Gradually, by successive steps or stages. For example, By degrees he began to delegate more and more of his duties to his staff. [Mid-1500s] Also see by inches.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.