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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
2. gentle.
1. sudden. 2. precipitous.
Synonym Study
1. See slow. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for gradually
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • These gradually died away in the distance, and were heard no more.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • But the tidings were gradually breaking in upon the mind of Andrew Lanning.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • gradually the image of the middle-aged Robin had effaced his youth.

  • gradually the older girls saw that she would not save herself.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • When they approached the entrance to the canyon, gradually Linda slowed down.

    Her Father's Daughter Gene Stratton-Porter
British Dictionary definitions for gradually


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 gradually

1640s, from gradual + -ly (2).



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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