piece by piece; one piece at a time; gradually: to work piecemeal.
into pieces or fragments: to tear a letter piecemeal.


done piecemeal.

Origin of piecemeal

1250–1300; Middle English pecemele; replacing Old English styccemǣlum. See piece, -meal
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for piecemeal



by degrees; bit by bit; gradually
in or into pieces or piece from pieceto tear something piecemeal


fragmentary or unsystematica piecemeal approach

Word Origin for piecemeal

C13 pecemele, from piece + -mele, from Old English mælum quantity taken at one time
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 piecemeal

c.1300 (originally two words), from piece (n.) + Old English mælum "at a time," dative plural of mæl "appointed time, food served" (see meal (n.1)). The second element once was more commonly used, e.g. Old English styccemælum "bit by bit," gearmælum "year by year." One-word form from 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper