gradual

Use the adjective gradual to describe something that happens slowly, bit by bit, like the gradual increase in the amount of daylight in winter.

Gradual can also apply to the gentle slope of landforms like hills. A gradual incline seems to slowly rise — you may not even realize you're walking up such a hill. Gradual comes from the Latin word gradus, which means "step." Step by step, a gradual hill climbs, while a steep hill seems to leap up into the air.

Definitions of gradual
  1. adjective
    proceeding in small stages
    “a gradual increase in prices”
    Synonyms:
    slow
    not moving quickly; taking a comparatively long time
    bit-by-bit, in small stages, piecemeal, step-by-step, stepwise
    one thing at a time
    gradational, gradatory, graduated
    taking place by degrees
    see moresee less
    Antonyms:
    sudden
    happening without warning or in a short space of time
    fast
    acting or moving or capable of acting or moving quickly
    abrupt
    exceedingly sudden and unexpected
    choppy, jerky
    marked by abrupt transitions
    emergent
    occurring unexpectedly and requiring urgent action
    explosive
    sudden and loud
    fulminant
    sudden and severe
    sharp
    very sudden and in great amount or degree
    show more antonyms...
  2. adjective
    (of a topographical gradient) not steep or abrupt
    “a gradual slope”
    Synonyms:
    easy, gentle
    marked by moderate steepness
    sloping
    having a slanting form or direction
    inclined
    at an angle to the horizontal or vertical position
    see moresee less
    Antonyms:
    steep
    having a sharp inclination
    abrupt, precipitous, sharp
    extremely steep
    bluff, bold, sheer
    very steep; having a prominent and almost vertical front
    heavy
    sharply inclined
    perpendicular
    extremely steep
    steepish
    somewhat steep
    steep-sided
    having very steep sides
    perpendicular, vertical
    at right angles to the plane of the horizon or a base line
    show more antonyms...
  3. noun
    (Roman Catholic Church) an antiphon (usually from the Book of Psalms) immediately after the epistle at Mass
    see moresee less
    type of:
    antiphon, antiphony
    a verse or song to be chanted or sung in response
Word Family
EDITOR’S CHOICE

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.

SAT/PSAT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

TOEFL

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

ACT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week