Definition of gradual in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈɡradʒʊəl/


1Taking place or progressing slowly or by degrees: the gradual introduction of new methods
More example sentences
  • Her success has been a gradual progression over a 14-year career.
  • Blake explains that the gradual progression of translating and interpreting the original texts lays the foundations for the shape of the finished product.
  • If Graham had stayed, he would have approved of that gradual progression, but warned against the dangers of moving too fast, of doing too well.
slow, moderate, measured, unhurried, restrained, cautious, circumspect, unspectacular;
piecemeal, step by step, little by little, bit by bit;
progressive, successive, continuous, systematic;
regular, steady, even, consistent, uniform
informal softly-softly
2(Of a slope) not steep or abrupt.
Example sentences
  • Carrying such massive equipment, the difference of a few feet in height, or of riding up an easy, gradual slope, is very significant.
  • There is also some issue as to whether there are, in effect two slopes, being the gradual slope of the deck, and then a steeper slope from the deck towards the catch basin.
  • Then came a long and gradual slope down to a lake-filled valley, followed by a switchback road along which we overtook a pair of tough old hikers who were walking at quite a pace.
gentle, not steep, moderate, slight, easy, subtle, imperceptible


1(In the Western Christian Church) a response sung or recited between the Epistle and Gospel in the Mass.
Example sentences
  • The chants set were Vespers responsories, Mass graduals, and alleluias, and perhaps some processional antiphons.
  • The construction of the second movement is descended from plainchant graduals and hymns.
1.1A book of plainsong for the Mass.



Pronunciation: /ˈɡradʒʊəlnəs/
Example sentences
  • Because of the gradualness with which the land slopes upward from the lake, I had no sense of climbing at all for the first half-hour.
  • It's said that the seeming gradualness of change in its early stages is fatally deceptive, that when the tipping point is reached disaster will unfold with the speed and force of a global avalanche.
  • The Catholic Church, as one is regularly reminded, is like a very big ship that turns slowly, and, in the gradualness of the turning, ‘turning points’ are hard to specify, but there is a sense that change is underway.


Late Middle English: from medieval Latin gradualis, from Latin gradus 'step'. The original sense of the adjective was 'arranged in degrees'; the noun refers to the altar steps in a church, from which the antiphons were sung.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: grad|ual

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.