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  1. in a steplike arrangement.
  2. Music. from one adjacent tone to another: The melody ascends stepwise.
  1. Music. moving from one adjacent tone to another: stepwise melodic progression.

Origin of stepwise

First recorded in 1885–90; step + -wise
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for stepwise

Historical Examples

  • When the music moves about stepwise in close proximity above and below the breaks, we have another cause of flattening.

    The Boy's Voice

    J. Spencer Curwen

  • Remember that it is easiest to leap from one register to a higher, a stepwise ascent being an insidious snare.

    The Boy's Voice

    J. Spencer Curwen

  • When the syncopated note belongs to the harmony of the measure, it may be left by a skip or stepwise progression.

  • So at a definite, measurable rate this stepwise disintegration proceeds.

    A Brief Account of Radio-activity

    Francis Preston Venable

British Dictionary definitions for stepwise


  1. arranged in the manner of or resembling steps
  2. music, US proceeding by melodic intervals of a second
  1. with the form or appearance of steps; step by step
  2. music, US in a stepwise motion
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