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[graj-oo-uh l] /ˈgrædʒ u əl/
taking place, changing, moving, etc., by small degrees or little by little:
gradual improvement in health.
rising or descending at an even, moderate inclination:
a gradual slope.
Ecclesiastical, (often initial capital letter)
  1. an antiphon sung between the Epistle and the Gospel in the Eucharistic service.
  2. a book containing the words and music of the parts of the liturgy that are sung by the choir.
Origin of gradual
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English < Medieval Latin graduālis pertaining to steps, graduāle the part of the service sung as the choir stood on the altar steps, equivalent to Latin gradu(s) step, grade + -ālis -al1
Related forms
gradually, adverb
gradualness, noun
ungradual, adjective
ungradually, adverb
1. See slow. 2. gentle.
1. sudden. 2. precipitous. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for gradual
  • When demand was growing more slowly, farmers could meet it through gradual improvements in their yields.
  • These require only gradual change and pretty much retain the status quo.
  • However, gradual political reform is the best solution.
  • Guided practice using the strategy with gradual release of responsibility.
  • Evolution is certainly not an exponential process, but a gradual one.
  • Two optometrists have noticed a gradual increase in my cup to disc ratio.
  • Movement along a fault is often so gradual that only sensitive scientific instruments can detect it.
  • One would have expected a gradual cooling as one moves away from the central heat source.
  • And he predicted a gradual return to healthier markets.
  • The major attraction of the phased concept is that it allows for a gradual adaptation to full retirement.
British Dictionary definitions for gradual


occurring, developing, moving, etc, in small stages: a gradual improvement in health
not steep or abrupt: a gradual slope
(often capital) (Christianity)
  1. an antiphon or group of several antiphons, usually from the Psalms, sung or recited immediately after the epistle at Mass
  2. a book of plainsong containing the words and music of the parts of the Mass that are sung by the cantors and choir
Derived Forms
gradually, adverb
gradualness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Medieval Latin graduālis relating to steps, from Latin gradus a step
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for gradual

early 15c., "having steps or ridges," from Medieval Latin gradualis, from Latin gradus "step" (see grade). Meaning "arranged by degrees" is from 1540s; that of "taking place by degrees" is from 1690s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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