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  1. taking place, changing, moving, etc., by small degrees or little by little: gradual improvement in health.
  2. rising or descending at an even, moderate inclination: a gradual slope.
  1. 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 formsgrad·u·al·ly, adverbgrad·u·al·ness, nounun·grad·u·al, adjectiveun·grad·u·al·ly, adverb

Synonyms for gradual

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2. gentle.

Synonym study

1. See slow.

Antonyms for gradual Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gradual

Contemporary Examples of gradual

Historical Examples of gradual

British Dictionary definitions for gradual


  1. occurring, developing, moving, etc, in small stagesa gradual improvement in health
  2. not steep or abrupta gradual slope
  1. (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 Formsgradually, 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

Word Origin and History for gradual

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