Definition of gradient in US English:



  • 1An inclined part of a road or railway; a slope.

    ‘fail-safe brakes for use on steep gradients’
    • ‘To go over the Andes by rail entailed very steep gradients indeed, and when I come to write about rack railways I will come back to them.’
    • ‘The drive up the two lane mountain road with excellent gradients is 13 km.’
    • ‘On the upper part of the mountain the gradient was so steep that climbers had to lean forward to prevent overbalancing.’
    • ‘By following the ridge of the city's hills, it provides tolerable gradients and avoids steep inclines, which proliferate in the city's side streets.’
    • ‘Their gradients are not steep enough to make a driver slow down any more than he would anyway at a road junction.’
    • ‘Its high mobility enables it to climb steep gradients and sizeable steps.’
    • ‘A fountain and water channel will see water flowing in spirals down the steep gradient of the street.’
    • ‘A hundred hand-cut granite steps were laid to negotiate the steep gradient leading up from the riverbank, to a walk back through the top of the bluebell wood.’
    • ‘As we left Girvan, with the sun shining, the wind blowing in its usual and helpful easterly direction, we climbed away from the town on a good open track which, despite the steep gradient, added to a sense of keen anticipation.’
    • ‘Narrow-gauge locomotives were relatively small, and steep gradients and sharp curves reduced train speeds.’
    • ‘Conditions were heinous, the largely off-trail section proving unrideable due to dense forest, boggy peat, streams, briars, bushes and steep gradients.’
    • ‘Road sections which included steep gradients, major drainage structures and thick chip seal surface layers were normally excluded.’
    • ‘Dangerous inclines, gradients and sharp curves add to the mess.’
    • ‘A clanking, wheezing locomotive went past the cabin climbing the steep gradient.’
    • ‘The rise in altitude from 6,000 ft to double that was reached via heartstoppingly steep gradients and hairpin bends.’
    • ‘This is a proper offroad vehicle - it climbed steep gradients with ease, using the tiptronic manual gear selector, and descended safely without the need to touch the pedals.’
    • ‘The Keoghs, realising that their present house, built as it is on a steep gradient, is most unsuitable for a wheelchair user, decided to apply for the transfer.’
    • ‘I hurtle past people carrying bags of shopping going uphill; the gradient is so steep I fear they will graze their noses on the tarmac.’
    • ‘The gradient is steep to begin with as the road goes through sharp bends.’
    • ‘For traffic driving east, the road descends down a gradient of 0.023 through a wooded area with trees overhanging the road on both sides.’
    slope, incline, hill, rise, rising ground, bank, ramp, acclivity
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 The degree of a slope.
      ‘the path becomes very rough as the gradient increases’
      • ‘Humidity hovered around 95 per cent and track gradients of greater than 1: 1 were the norm.’
      • ‘The distance is about 65 kilometres and the rising gradient averages less than one per cent.’
      • ‘It had a gradient of about 45 degrees and was strewn with loose rocks and boulders.’
      • ‘When the gradient of the river increases, the water flows faster and faster, until finally it breaks up into a white-water rapid.’
      • ‘After completing two minutes at a fairly easy pace, increase the resistance and raise the gradient to 20 percent.’
      • ‘It's going to be interesting, especially with the variable, the gradient and the angle of the circuit, I think it's going to maybe give some people a bit of grief, but we'll have to see in the next couple of days, I guess.’
      • ‘Chen said the council's plan is to ban the planting of betel trees on mountainsides with a gradient of more than 30 degrees.’
      • ‘It is 12.4km long and has an average gradient of 4.5 per cent.’
      • ‘Mountain trails typically have gradients of 15, 20, and 25 degrees.’
      • ‘The rocks below provide firm foundations; they also dictate the gradient of a road, the placing of a church, the space available for a terrace or hanging garden.’
      • ‘It is a steep, cobbled climb, with a maximum gradient of 20 percent.’
      • ‘The forest stands characterized by steep slopes and high gradients supported the highest basal area of hemlock.’
      • ‘If your Honours go to paragraph 2.1, you will see that the plaintiff was injured in this case when he fell on a section of a driveway which had a gradient of 47 per cent.’
      • ‘The lower 150m section has a gentle gradient of 12 degrees providing an ample and safe area to test out those first turns.’
      • ‘He also said that the last mountain proved to be the biggest challenge because it meant walking at a constant gradient to a height of nearly 6,000 feet.’
      • ‘Therefore if Cross-rail precedes electrification, then diesel units would be used for cross-city services which would easily negotiate the gradients and angles.’
      • ‘Fair enough, Edinburgh is far from flat… but the I lived in Cambridge for 7 years, so I think mole hills should have a road sign denoting their gradient.’
      steepness, angle, slant, slope, inclination, leaning
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2Mathematics The degree of steepness of a graph at any point.
      • ‘Differentiation is a method of working out the gradient of a curve - how quickly one variable changes with respect to another.’
      • ‘The abrupt changes in gradient visible in the graph are caused when the number of relevant genetic backgrounds i max changes from one integer value to the next.’
      • ‘In a moment we will demonstrate what the gradient of the curve at a point is, by examining a limiting argument.’
      • ‘Let's choose the point x = 3, and try to decide what it means for the curve to have a gradient at the point.’
  • 2Physics
    An increase or decrease in the magnitude of a property (e.g. temperature, pressure, or concentration) observed in passing from one point or moment to another.

    • ‘Distinct gradients in pressure were observed throughout the contact area.’
    • ‘I assure you, however, I have accurately mapped the topological surface density and transitional energy gradients of the timeline in question.’
    • ‘We observed a gradient in the depth of the selective sweep, which becomes progressively deeper as you get nearer to the gene.’
    • ‘We investigated the influence of temperature gradients between different mound heights on CO 2 concentrations.’
    1. 2.1 The rate of a gradient change.
    2. 2.2Mathematics The vector formed by the operator ∇ acting on a scalar function at a given point in a scalar field.


Mid 19th century: from grade, on the pattern of salient.