[ graj-oo-uhl ]
/ 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

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

grad·u·al·ly, adverbgrad·u·al·ness, nounun·grad·u·al, adjectiveun·grad·u·al·ly, adverb

Synonym study

1. See slow. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gradual

British Dictionary definitions for gradual


/ (ˈɡrædjʊəl) /


occurring, developing, moving, etc, in small stagesa gradual improvement in health
not steep or abrupta 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, adverbgradualness, noun

Word Origin for gradual

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