[ graj-oo-uh-liz-uh m ]
/ ˈgrædʒ u əˌlɪz əm /


the principle or policy of achieving some goal by gradual steps rather than by drastic change.
Philosophy. a theory maintaining that two seemingly conflicting notions are not radically opposed, but are related by others partaking in varying degrees of the character of both.
Biology. a tenet in evolutionary theory maintaining that species evolve slowly and continuously over long periods of geological time.

Origin of gradualism

An Americanism dating back to 1825–35; gradual + -ism


grad·u·al·ist, noun, adjectivegrad·u·al·is·tic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Examples from the Web for gradualism

British Dictionary definitions for gradualism

/ (ˈɡrædjʊəˌlɪzəm) /


the policy of seeking to change something or achieve a goal gradually rather than quickly or violently, esp in politics
the theory that explains major changes in rock strata, fossils, etc in terms of gradual evolutionary processes rather than sudden violent catastrophesCompare catastrophism

Derived forms of gradualism

gradualist, noun, adjectivegradualistic, adjective
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

Scientific definitions for gradualism

[ grăjōō-ə-lĭz′əm ]

The theory that new species evolve from existing species through gradual, often imperceptible changes rather than through abrupt, major changes. The small changes are believed to result in perceptible changes over long periods of time. Compare punctuated equilibrium.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for gradualism


The belief that changes in the Earth, such as the development of species, have taken place slowly, without sudden and violent transitions. (Compare punctuated equilibrium and catastrophism.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.