Definition of marginal in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈmɑːdʒɪn(ə)l/


1Relating to or at the edge or margin: marginal notes
More example sentences
  • ‘Fiscal rot’ was his marginal note on a chart showing the growth of the public debt in the 1990s.
  • A marginal inscription notes that Captain Cook first sighted the south-eastern corner, where settlement began.
  • For one thing, all my marginal notes are missing.
1.1Relating to water adjacent to the land’s edge or coast: water lilies and marginal aquatics
More example sentences
  • All dead and yellowing growth should be cleared from marginal plants and water lilies, and submerged aquatics that are getting out of hand should be thinned out.
  • Beware of the razor-edged oyster-shells or the stinging fish (theli meen) in the muddy marginal waters.
  • Keep the hammer down and do not squander the early start behind shrimp boats in marginal water.
2Minor and not important; not central: it seems likely to make only a marginal difference the cost is negligible, less than marginal
More example sentences
  • Types of work which are now marginal were still important.
  • This could have been the basis of an interesting discussion of how marginal or central such songs were to Finland.
  • In the same way women are central - not marginal - to the process of reproduction.
slight, small, tiny, minute, low, minor, insignificant, minimal, negligible
2.1(Of costs or benefits) relating to or resulting from small or unit changes: the issue is to estimate the marginal benefit from the increased frequency of screening examinations against the marginal increased cost
More example sentences
  • In each country, the long-run perfectly competitive equilibrium price equals marginal production cost plus the per unit tax.
  • Thus short-run marginal costing rather than LRMC is the appropriate pricing strategy.
  • Hyundai Motor India has announced a marginal price increase for all its cars across segments to reflect the incidence of Education Cess.
2.2(Of taxation) relating to increases in income: the marginal tax rates on these incomes rise to as much as 80 per cent in some republics
More example sentences
  • First of all, as the marginal income tax rate increases, the incentive to work decreases as less and less of one's earnings are actually kept for their own use.
  • But the Minister in the chair should tell us what will happen to that family's effective marginal taxation rate as its income goes a bit higher.
  • Since the tax refund is based on the taxpayer's marginal tax rate, it's prudent in some cases to defer deducting the RRSP contribution.
3(Of a decision or distinction) very narrow; borderline: a marginal offside decision
More example sentences
  • Any righteous indignation on the part of the Americans at that stage was undermined by replays which suggested the offside decision was marginal.
  • It was tough on Pres Milltown who gave it everything but they just gave St Pats too big a lead and had little luck with marginal decisions.
  • However, to the dismay of the home-support a marginal offside decision went United's way.
borderline, disputable, questionable, doubtful
3.1British (Of a parliamentary or council seat) held by a small majority and therefore at risk in an election.
Example sentences
  • Nationally that figures has soared by 500 per cent in marginal seats in the election.
  • Catching these ‘missing voters’ could make a significant difference to the results of elections in marginal seats.
  • Leeds North West, which encompasses Otley, has been targeted by the Liberal Democrats and Tories as a key marginal seat in their election campaigns.
3.2Close to the limit of profitability, especially through difficulty of exploitation: marginal farmland
More example sentences
  • Farmers originally received grants to plant forests on marginal farmland.
  • He notes that the northern grazing industry has usually been economically marginal, rarely very profitable.
  • Underneath that wide smile, he scares marginal McDonald's store operators with his frankness.


1British A seat in a parliament or on a council that is held by a small majority and is at risk in an election: she is defending a key marginal for the Tories
More example sentences
  • Cook kept faith with voting reform, maintaining the present system depresses turnout and contributes to ‘lack of colour’ as parties compete for the swing voter in key marginals.
  • ‘All these polls indicate is that there will be a dogfight for the last seat in all key marginals and the vote will be so tight it is hard for anyone to call it,’ the Fine Gael spokesman said.
  • While a higher top rate would win back Labour waverers on the left, the fear among the party's strategists is that it would risk losing swing voters in the key marginals, and that the net effect could be negative.
2A plant that grows in water close to the edge of land: remove any dead foliage on water lilies and marginals
More example sentences
  • However, an important difference is in the shape of the crescentic facets on the proximal edge of the marginals.
  • They correspond to facets for the articulation of two rows of spines along lateral edges of marginals.
  • Whoever made the original choice of plants did a splendid job, leaving us a mix of marginals, surface-leaved and submerged oxygenating plants, all of which I would highly recommend to fellow novice pond keepers.



Pronunciation: /mɑːdʒɪˈnalɪti/
Example sentences
  • They found a way to combine the economic interests of publishers, bookstores, and poets to overcome the financial marginality of serious literature.
  • But he says it is futile to try and start a leftist party out of ‘small groups condemned to marginality.’
  • We associate marginality with self-consciousness, with the possibility of critical distance; the outsider becomes a sociologist.


Late 16th century: from medieval Latin marginalis, from margo, margin- (see margin).

Words that rhyme with marginal


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: mar|gin¦al

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