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gradual (adj.)

early 15c., "having steps or ridges," from Medieval Latin gradualis, from Latin gradus "a step; a step climbed; a step toward something, a degree of something rising by stages" (from PIE root *ghredh- "to walk, go"). Meaning "arranged by degrees" is from 1540s; that of "taking place by degrees" is from 1690s.

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Definitions of gradual from WordNet
1
gradual (adj.)
proceeding in small stages;
a gradual increase in prices
gradual (adj.)
(of a topographical gradient) not steep or abrupt;
a gradual slope
2
gradual (n.)
(Roman Catholic Church) an antiphon (usually from the Book of Psalms) immediately after the epistle at Mass;
From wordnet.princeton.edu