Definition of marginal in English:



  • 1Relating to or at the edge or margin.

    ‘marginal notes’
    • ‘The latter has not survived but it can be partially recreated from the marginal notes made on the text of the 1542 inventory.’
    • ‘It is worth making a marginal note of such matters as you go through, because it may be that you may not be able to bring them to mind later on.’
    • ‘A marginal inscription notes that Captain Cook first sighted the south-eastern corner, where settlement began.’
    • ‘As it turns out the British Museum copy of this manuscript has copious marginal notes by none other than Dr. John Dee.’
    • ‘The book is designed with marginal notes, which takes some getting used to but are very helpful.’
    • ‘Second, the timing of amalgamation of the Central Zone to either of the adjacent marginal zones and/or cratons is more unclear than ever.’
    • ‘For one thing, all my marginal notes are missing.’
    • ‘It should be noted that the term diminished responsibility is not used in s. 2; it appears in the marginal note.’
    • ‘It included marginal notes which commended it to the Puritans, who wished to study it without need of priestly interpretation.’
    • ‘A narrow marginal band that is darker in color than the interior region of the shell appears in Newton's figure 21.6.’
    • ‘The activities of a parallel spirit world are described in marginal notes to the poem.’
    • ‘David Parker introduced a provision to create marginal strips around sensitive land such as lakes and rivers.’
    • ‘But the wider importance of the phrase was only made clear by a marginal note in one of his notebooks.’
    • ‘The backward stretching and branching septal folds are confined to a narrow marginal zone of the septa.’
    • ‘Read through your data again, but this time begin to make marginal notes about significant remarks or observations.’
    • ‘‘Fiscal rot’ was his marginal note on a chart showing the growth of the public debt in the 1990s.’
    • ‘The margins are straight, with discordant injection veins, and grade into a marginal cataclasite zone adjacent to the mylonite.’
    • ‘Moreover, in the Spanish material, a faint additional ridge exists between the marginal structure and the border.’
    • ‘Much of this is well-documented but neglected history, a marginal note to the complex story of the Risorgimento and Italian unification.’
    • ‘Not all annotations and marginal notes were politically motivated or denominationally influenced.’
    1. 1.1 Relating to water adjacent to the land's edge or coast.
      ‘water lilies and marginal aquatics’
      • ‘Keep the hammer down and do not squander the early start behind shrimp boats in marginal water.’
      • ‘Beware of the razor-edged oyster-shells or the stinging fish (theli meen) in the muddy marginal waters.’
      • ‘He used pole and maggot in the marginal slack water for a mixed net of small roach and perch scaling 3lb 9oz.’
      • ‘All dead and yellowing growth should be cleared from marginal plants and water lilies, and submerged aquatics that are getting out of hand should be thinned out.’
      • ‘As a plus, marginal water clarity can be productive, especially with live bait.’
      • ‘These beasts lived largely in the sea and marginal river basins, where they hunted prey with their formidable crab-like claws.’
      • ‘A bed of reed-mace extended a few feet out on a shallower marginal shelf before the drop off into the deeper water.’
  • 2Minor and not important; not central.

    ‘it seems likely to make only a marginal difference’
    ‘the cost is negligible, less than marginal’
    • ‘He lambasted software companies for piling on marginal features in incessant upgrades that can downgrade user efficiency.’
    • ‘UBS is even carving out a position in U.S. investment banking, where it was once a marginal player.’
    • ‘Such is the nature of American fencing that even at the nationals, marginal swashbucklers like me can end up dueling an Olympian.’
    • ‘The added hassle of tighter security plays only a marginal role in explaining lower business travel.’
    • ‘But for all the dramatic swings between the various parties, there are only marginal political differences between them.’
    • ‘In the same way women are central - not marginal - to the process of reproduction.’
    • ‘Types of work which are now marginal were still important.’
    • ‘Though the use of the horse as a draught animal was spreading, this was of marginal importance.’
    • ‘Communities can also demand that PE be treated as more than a marginal school pursuit.’
    • ‘Privately, kin groups are important, but politically and economically, they play a marginal role.’
    • ‘This could have been the basis of an interesting discussion of how marginal or central such songs were to Finland.’
    • ‘Consequently, the ectopterygoids are pushed out of the way and become fairly marginal elements.’
    • ‘In 1914, the submarine was seen as a weapon of marginal importance.’
    • ‘In The Dew Breaker each separate story is a fragment of another; a marginal character or incident in an episode becomes central to a later one.’
    • ‘Social network connections provide marginal members of the elite with the capacity to translate their interests into action.’
    • ‘At low growth irradiance, light was the most important determinant of acclimation, while the effect of low nutrient supply was of only marginal importance.’
    • ‘Cairy listened and made mental notes of what even seemed to be marginal important information.’
    • ‘The conservatives condemned them as a threat to proper socialist control; the reformers saw them as of marginal importance and largely a waste of resources.’
    • ‘Given these numbers it is clear that clemency was marginal to the criminal justice system.’
    • ‘Such creative financing is letting even marginal buyers purchase houses with price tags that used to appeal only to the rich and famous.’
    slight, small, tiny, minute, low, minor, insignificant, minimal, negligible
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 (of costs or benefits) relating to or resulting from small or unit changes.
      ‘the issue is to estimate the marginal benefit from the increased frequency of screening examinations against the marginal increased cost’
      • ‘In the past the market mispriced oil due to distortions of low marginal production costs.’
      • ‘If he is rational, he will choose a price that maximizes his profit, the price that equates marginal cost with marginal revenue.’
      • ‘In the week ended June 19, first-time claims for jobless benefits recorded a marginal increase, at 351,000.’
      • ‘In each country, the long-run perfectly competitive equilibrium price equals marginal production cost plus the per unit tax.’
      • ‘You have gone back to define market power, I thought, as the ability to charge above marginal prices.’
      • ‘Utility accounting is notoriously arcane and based on aggregate, not marginal, costs.’
      • ‘Thus short-run marginal costing rather than LRMC is the appropriate pricing strategy.’
      • ‘Increasing rates of reproduction will drop marginal production costs and, therefore, prices.’
      • ‘Economic theory would dictate use of marginal price, but average price is often the only price measure available.’
      • ‘In other words, we assume that the marginal and average costs of production remain equal and constant as output expands.’
      • ‘Dramatic congestion relief can be obtained by applying short-run marginal social cost pricing to street networks.’
      • ‘The variable, total, marginal and average costs are calculated along with total revenue and profit or loss.’
      • ‘By the 1990s, the use of frequent flyer programmes had become more widespread and their revenue benefits marginal.’
      • ‘Hyundai Motor India has announced a marginal price increase for all its cars across segments to reflect the incidence of Education Cess.’
    2. 2.2 (of taxation) relating to increases in income.
      ‘the marginal tax rates on these incomes rise to as much as 80 per cent in some republics’
      • ‘Under the old system, tax allowances were worth more to a higher rate taxpayer, who received relief at the marginal rate of income tax.’
      • ‘There should be a capital gain on maturity which will attract capital gains tax rather than an investor's marginal rate of income tax.’
      • ‘Since the tax refund is based on the taxpayer's marginal tax rate, it's prudent in some cases to defer deducting the RRSP contribution.’
      • ‘First of all, as the marginal income tax rate increases, the incentive to work decreases as less and less of one's earnings are actually kept for their own use.’
      • ‘He said the effective marginal taxation rate should be 105 percent.’
      • ‘The employee is charged income tax at the marginal tax rate on the difference between the interest rate paid on the loan and the deemed rate as outlined above.’
      • ‘You can claim money spent on doctors, physiotherapists, psychiatrists and qualifying medicines at your marginal rate of income tax.’
      • ‘Everybody seems to think that progressive income tax is a good idea, with the marginal tax rate rising on higher incomes.’
      • ‘But the Minister in the chair should tell us what will happen to that family's effective marginal taxation rate as its income goes a bit higher.’
      • ‘The tax cuts passed by Congress last year lowered the marginal tax rate for most taxpayers.’
      • ‘There are people in this country who pay effective marginal taxation rates that are far higher than this legislation implies.’
      • ‘It is therefore highly necessary to reduce the effective marginal taxation to enhance the incentive to work.’
      • ‘However the stated purpose of the tax cuts is to increase economic growth, and this is determined by the marginal tax rate.’
      • ‘Earned - income tax credits topped up wages and reduced the high marginal tax rates that would otherwise occur as benefits were withdrawn.’
      • ‘People on $60,000 face an effective marginal taxation rate of around 90c in the dollar.’
      • ‘Gross it up by your marginal rate of income tax and you see the full horrors of the Stealth Tax policy.’
      • ‘Pensions are the most tax-efficient way to invest, because tax relief at a member's marginal rate of income tax is allowed.’
      • ‘If its discovered that someone hid hot money - so there was no tax paid - the entire amount becomes subject to income tax at the marginal rate.’
      • ‘However, when the earned income credit is phased out, there is a dramatic increase in a couple's marginal tax rate.’
      • ‘BC now has the second lowest top marginal personal income tax rate in Canada, and the fourth lowest general corporate income tax rate.’
  • 3(of a decision or distinction) very narrow; borderline.

    ‘a marginal offside decision’
    • ‘The initial decision to extend the case was marginal, as was the decision to grant indefinite leave to remain two weeks later.’
    • ‘For one of these consumers the decision has been a marginal one, and had the price been any higher the purchase would not be made.’
    • ‘I've been bracketing between 1-4 sec exposures, and the differences are marginal.’
    • ‘Which one a student decides to attend is a personal choice that should be influenced not a whit by a marginal difference in rankings.’
    • ‘Any righteous indignation on the part of the Americans at that stage was undermined by replays which suggested the offside decision was marginal.’
    • ‘It was tough on Pres Milltown who gave it everything but they just gave St Pats too big a lead and had little luck with marginal decisions.’
    • ‘Aren't we really discussing some small, marginal difference in income here?’
    • ‘Those figures showed a very marginal lead as you note and we can take that back.’
    • ‘There was a marginal difference in the levels of support among urban voters compared to rural ones, with city dwellers only slightly more likely to vote no.’
    • ‘However, to the dismay of the home-support a marginal offside decision went United's way.’
    • ‘It seems to me, at the moment in this case, that it is not as if this is a marginal difference of a small degree.’
    • ‘On such small margins - and this was a marginal decision - are reputations saved.’
    • ‘Fixed fees also have no impact on marginal decisions about whether to drive more or fewer miles in a year, since annual mileage is not related to the tax rate.’
    • ‘I suspect that the present approach, despite being incredibly expensive, is making only a marginal difference.’
    • ‘You stood by me when I missed the first prize by a marginal difference of two marks, and you made me feel that I still had reasons to be proud of myself.’
    • ‘There were marginal differences in the side effects, with no statistical significance.’
    • ‘This marginal difference in formula makes no difference in this case.’
    • ‘The marginal difference in the growth pattern, as we will see a bit later, has more to do with socio-economic factors than religious ones.’
    • ‘We got to get in the show, but I think if you start 23rd or 33rd, over 500 miles it's going to be very marginal difference.’
    borderline, disputable, questionable, doubtful
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1British (of a parliamentary or council seat) held by a small majority and therefore at risk in an election.
      • ‘In fact, there was little turnover of seats at general elections and the two main parties concentrated on the fifty or so marginal seats which decided the outcome of a general election.’
      • ‘Catching these ‘missing voters’ could make a significant difference to the results of elections in marginal seats.’
      • ‘Tories are setting up a war unit to target three marginal General Election seats in Bradford, it was revealed today.’
      • ‘One returning officer in the marginal seat of Dorset South said hundreds of voters had rung up to cancel postal votes owing to fears of fraud.’
      • ‘Add to this the fact that many of their marginal seats are electing councillors, and this is a big test.’
      • ‘He said he was determined to visit each of the party's key marginal seats at least once before the next election.’
      • ‘By spending time in the places with marginal seats, he aims to find out what the voters really want and what the towns and surrounding areas really need.’
      • ‘He now plans to vote Labour in the marginal seat of Battersea.’
      • ‘It was only restarted after Labour realised it was in a marginal seat and could be a vote-winner in the next election.’
      • ‘No longer would elections be decided in a small number of marginal seats - parties would be forced to campaign for every last vote, everywhere.’
      • ‘A Tory spokesman claimed ministers had hoped to keep a lid on the crisis, in a region full of marginal seats, until after the election on May 5.’
      • ‘It is true that the polls show very little movement either way, but there are plenty of marginal seats in Victoria and in a close election they cannot be ignored.’
      • ‘Labour, having survived this year's election, has been left with a heavy crop of marginal seats to defend.’
      • ‘Nationally that figures has soared by 500 per cent in marginal seats in the election.’
      • ‘The ballot boxes may not open until 5 May, but the postal votes on which many of Labour's most marginal seats will be decided began dropping on to doormats last weekend.’
      • ‘Once upon a time his own seat was quite marginal, and it was often touch and go on election night - him never knowing if he was going to stay in parliament or not.’
      • ‘The final result of the general election was declared yesterday as Labour clung on to the marginal seat of Harlow by just 97 votes.’
      • ‘The closeness of voting in marginal seats in both state and federal elections demonstrates that our individual votes do matter.’
      • ‘Leeds North West, which encompasses Otley, has been targeted by the Liberal Democrats and Tories as a key marginal seat in their election campaigns.’
      • ‘Conservative voters in marginal seats: Grit your teeth and vote Labour.’
    2. 3.2 Close to the limit of profitability, especially through difficulty of exploitation.
      ‘marginal farmland’
      • ‘The result of this is that any such marginal parcel of land will be sold at the market price determined by the opportunity cost of land.’
      • ‘Underneath that wide smile, he scares marginal McDonald's store operators with his frankness.’
      • ‘Africa is so vast and fertile that we don't need GM crops to increase yields or to enable us to use marginal land.’
      • ‘But the crops promoted are often inappropriate, the lands used marginal and the returns diminishing.’
      • ‘How do we begin to value the agriculture of these marginal lands so that it can compete in this unfair internal market?’
      • ‘Majors couldn't be bothered with marginal fields and were willing to sell off production.’
      • ‘Farmers originally received grants to plant forests on marginal farmland.’
      • ‘For example, aluminum-tolerant crops could allow farmers in developing nations to plant on marginal lands.’
      • ‘He notes that the northern grazing industry has usually been economically marginal, rarely very profitable.’
      • ‘A poor man is driven on to marginal land; he is not suffered to live on good land at a low rent.’
      • ‘Thus, the model indicated that marginal land could be put into the conservation reservation program or similar other programs.’
      • ‘GM can make crops more efficient, putting marginal land back to nature and reducing pesticide use.’
      • ‘Let us assume a two-factor (land and labour) economy, in which a plot of marginal land yields no rent.’
      • ‘And that rent is still a differential relative to the output at marginal land.’
      • ‘Landowners can offer eligible cropland and marginal pastureland in these watersheds.’
      • ‘In some cases the provision grounds comprised marginal, unproductive land; in others the soil was ideal for food crops.’


  • 1British A seat in a parliament or on a council that is held by a small majority and is at risk in an election.

    ‘she is defending a key marginal for the Tories’
    • ‘In the marginals the battle was much closer than the national polls suggested.’
    • ‘The Labour MP was defending an already tight 2,138 majority in a seat targeted as a key marginal by Tory chiefs.’
    • ‘Lib Dem strategists said their vote had risen in the target marginals by 15 percentage points since the start of the election, even if the national poll rating had only crept up.’
    • ‘If people want to bring down the Howard Government, they need to help Labor do it in the marginals and then run a guerrilla style campaign in the safe seats that would do the Viet Cong proud.’
    • ‘Not all the government marginals are in Victoria.’
    • ‘But it wasn't just in the regions and the marginals that a different election was going on.’
    • ‘But there is growing evidence that all three parties are seeking to maximise their postal vote in key marginals, where applications for such votes have risen by 200% or more.’
    • ‘Bristol West is one of the closest fought marginals in the country, and a rarity in that all three parties are within striking distance of victory.’
    • ‘Both leaders were in Adelaide today - a state where the seats are marginals, the voters are fickle and the Democrats are strong.’
    • ‘Some are willing to vote against Labour even in seats where a Tory can win - the majority of Labour's marginals.’
    • ‘Senior Labour sources said that their own polling in 107 key marginals showed that the Tories would win the election if one in 10 Labour voters switched to another party or did not vote.’
    • ‘‘All these polls indicate is that there will be a dogfight for the last seat in all key marginals and the vote will be so tight it is hard for anyone to call it,’ the Fine Gael spokesman said.’
    • ‘The current pendulum's marginals will produce a mixed result.’
    • ‘The Coalition just needs to frustrate the ALP; the more likely gains for Labor are marginals with retiring members.’
    • ‘Cook kept faith with voting reform, maintaining the present system depresses turnout and contributes to ‘lack of colour’ as parties compete for the swing voter in key marginals.’
    • ‘Some of the biggest swings against Labor were in its safe seats, not the marginals.’
    • ‘It is because these two characters are males from the right that the Machine has tied itself in such knots trying to balance the factions and the sexes in the Liberal-held marginals.’
    • ‘And two-party preferred says nothing about the rural and regional marginals… where elections are won and lost now.’
    • ‘While a higher top rate would win back Labour waverers on the left, the fear among the party's strategists is that it would risk losing swing voters in the key marginals, and that the net effect could be negative.’
    • ‘It was aimed squarely at the cluster of key provincial and regional marginals that will decide the election.’
  • 2A plant that grows in water close to the edge of land.

    ‘remove any dead foliage on water lilies and marginals’
    • ‘There is a lot of colour in the planting of the marginals around the pond and the fragrance from them was divine.’
    • ‘They correspond to facets for the articulation of two rows of spines along lateral edges of marginals.’
    • ‘However, an important difference is in the shape of the crescentic facets on the proximal edge of the marginals.’
    • ‘Whoever made the original choice of plants did a splendid job, leaving us a mix of marginals, surface-leaved and submerged oxygenating plants, all of which I would highly recommend to fellow novice pond keepers.’


Late 16th century: from medieval Latin marginalis, from margo, margin- (see margin).