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  1. a degree or step in a scale, as of rank, advancement, quality, value, or intensity: the best grade of paper.
  2. a class of persons or things of the same relative rank, quality, etc.
  3. a step or stage in a course or process.
  4. a single division of a school classified according to the age or progress of the pupils. In the U.S., public schools are commonly divided into twelve grades below college.
  5. the pupils in such a division.
  6. grades, elementary school (usually preceded by the): He first began teaching in the grades.
  7. a letter, number, or other symbol indicating the relative quality of a student's work in a course, examination, or special assignment; mark.
  8. a classification or standard of food based on quality, size, etc.: grade A milk.
  9. inclination with the horizontal of a road, railroad, etc., usually expressed by stating the vertical rise or fall as a percentage of the horizontal distance; slope.
  10. Building Trades. Also called grade line. the level at which the ground intersects the foundation of a building.
  11. an animal resulting from a cross between a parent of ordinary stock and one of a pure breed.
  12. Mathematics. grad2.
verb (used with object), grad·ed, grad·ing.
  1. to arrange in a series of grades; class; sort: a machine that grades two thousand eggs per hour.
  2. to determine the grade of.
  3. to assign a grade to (a student's work); mark: I graded forty tests last night.
  4. to cause to pass by degrees, as from one color or shade to another.
  5. to reduce to a level or to practicable degrees of inclination: to grade a road.
  6. to cross (an ordinary or low-grade animal) with an animal of a pure or superior breed.
verb (used without object), grad·ed, grad·ing.
  1. to incline; slant or slope: The road grades steeply for a mile.
  2. to be of a particular grade or quality.
  3. to pass by degrees from one color or shade to another; blend: See how the various colors grade into one another.
Verb Phrases
  1. grade up, to improve (a herd, flock, etc.) by breeding with purebreds.
  1. at grade,
    1. on the same level: A railroad crosses a highway at grade.
    2. (of a stream bed) so adjusted to conditions of slope and the volume and speed of water that no gain or loss of sediment takes place.
  2. make the grade, to attain a specific goal; succeed: He'll never make the grade in medical school.
  3. up to grade, of the desired or required quality: This shipment is not up to grade.

Origin of grade

1505–15; < French: office < Latin gradus step, stage, degree, derivative of gradī to go, step, walk
Related formsmis·grade, verb, mis·grad·ed, mis·grad·ing.mis·grad·ed, adjectivemul·ti·grade, adjectiveo·ver·grade, verb (used with object), o·ver·grad·ed, o·ver·grad·ing.pre·grade, verb (used with object), pre·grad·ed, pre·grad·ing, nounre·grade, verb (used with object), re·grad·ed, re·grad·ing.un·grad·ed, adjectivewell-grad·ed, adjective

Synonyms for grade

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  1. a combining form meaning “walking, moving,” in the manner or by the means specified by the initial element: plantigrade.

Origin of -grade

< Latin -gradus, combining form representing gradus step or gradī to walk. See grade, gradient Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for grade

Contemporary Examples of grade

Historical Examples of grade

  • This grade I had to cross; and I was greatly afraid that I would meet some one.

    Biography of a Slave

    Charles Thompson

  • Did any of you fellows happen to see a dead coyote up on the grade?

  • He looked back once, just as he was turning into the grade road.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • The Blossburgh grade is used almost entirely for blacksmithing.

  • But after a while they noticed that the grade was upward and the going easier.

    The Heads of Apex

    Francis Flagg

British Dictionary definitions for grade


  1. a position or degree in a scale, as of quality, rank, size, or progressionsmall-grade eggs; high-grade timber
  2. a group of people or things of the same category
  3. mainly US a military or other rank
  4. a stage in a course of progression
  5. a mark or rating indicating achievement or the worth of work done, as at school
  6. US and Canadian a unit of pupils of similar age or ability taught together at school
  7. US and Canadian
    1. a part of a railway, road, etc, that slopes upwards or downwards; inclination
    2. Also called: gradienta measure of such a slope, esp the ratio of the vertical distance between two points on the slope to the horizontal distance between them
  8. a unit of angle equal to one hundredth of a right angle or 0.9 degree
  9. stockbreeding
    1. an animal with one purebred parent and one of unknown or unimproved breeding
    2. (as modifier)a grade sheep Compare crossbred (def. 2), purebred (def. 2)
  10. linguistics one of the forms of the vowel in a morpheme when this vowel varies because of gradation
  11. at grade
    1. on the same level
    2. (of a river profile or land surface) at an equilibrium level and slope, because there is a balance between erosion and deposition
  12. make the grade informal
    1. to reach the required standard
    2. to succeed
  1. (tr) to arrange according to quality, rank, etc
  2. (tr) to determine the grade of or assign a grade to
  3. (intr) to achieve or deserve a grade or rank
  4. to change or blend (something) gradually; merge
  5. (tr) to level (ground, a road, etc) to a suitable gradient
  6. (tr) stockbreeding to cross (one animal) with another to produce a grade animal

Word Origin for grade

C16: from French, from Latin gradus step, from gradī to step


adj combining form
  1. indicating a kind or manner of movement or progressionplantigrade; retrograde

Word Origin for -grade

via French from Latin -gradus, from gradus a step, from gradī to walk
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

Word Origin and History for grade

1510s, "degree of measurement," from French grade "grade, degree" (16c.), from Latin gradus "step, pace, gait, walk;" figuratively "a step, stage, degree," related to gradi "to walk, step, go," from PIE *ghredh- (cf. Lithuanian gridiju "to go, wander," Old Church Slavonic gredo "to come," Old Irish in-greinn "he pursues," and second element in congress, progress, etc.).

Replaced Middle English gree "step, degree in a series," from Old French grei "step," from Latin gradus. Railway sense is from 1811. Meaning "class of things having the same quality or value" is from 1807; meaning "division of a school curriculum equivalent to one year" is from 1835; that of "letter-mark indicating assessment of a student's work" is from 1886 (earlier used of numerical grades). Grade A "top quality, fit for human consumption" (originally of milk) is from a U.S. system instituted in 1912.


1650s, "to arrange in grades," from grade (n.). Related: Graded; grading.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

grade in Science


  1. The degree of inclination of a slope, road, or other surface.
  2. A grouping of organisms done purely on the basis of shared features and without regard to evolutionary relationships. Grades may include organisms that do not share a common ancestor, or may exclude some organisms having the same common ancestor as the other organisms in the grade. For this reason, many taxonomists do not accept grades as formal classifications. The class Reptilia (reptiles) is a grade since it includes dinosaurs but not birds, even though birds are descended from dinosaurs. Compare clade.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with grade


see make the grade.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.