SKIP TO CONTENT

marginal

Use the word marginal when something is minimal or barely enough. If you buy lemons and sugar, make lemonade and set up a stand on the street corner, but sell only a couple of glasses, your profits will be marginal.

Some claim that greenhouse gases have a marginal effect on the environment while others think that they are changing the world drastically. Your parents hope to see more than a marginal improvement in your grades! These are the figurative uses for marginal, which comes from the Latin word margo "edge." Literally, the word is used with things on a border. When you scribble words in the blank edges of your textbook pages, those notes are marginal.

Definitions of marginal
  1. adjective
    at or constituting a border or edge
    “the marginal strip of beach”
    synonyms: fringy
    peripheral
    on or near an edge or constituting an outer boundary; the outer area
  2. adjective
    just barely adequate or within a lower limit
    “a marginal victory”
    synonyms: bare
    narrow
    very limited in degree
  3. adjective
    of questionable or minimal quality
    marginal writing ability”
    synonyms: borderline
    minimal, minimum
    the least possible
  4. adjective
    producing at a rate that barely covers production costs
    marginal industries”
    Synonyms:
    unprofitable
    producing little or no profit or gain
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