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gradation (n.)

1530s, "a climax;" 1670s, "orderly arrangement or succession," from French gradation (16c.) and directly from Latin gradationem (nominative gradatio) "ascent by steps; a climax," noun of action from gradi "to walk, go, step" (from PIE root *ghredh- "to walk, go"). Meaning "gradual change" is from 1540s.

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Definitions of gradation from WordNet

gradation (n.)
relative position in a graded series;
subtle gradations in color
Synonyms: step
gradation (n.)
a degree of ablaut;
Synonyms: grade
gradation (n.)
the act of arranging in grades;
Synonyms: graduation
From wordnet.princeton.edu