Definition of gradient in English:



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

    ‘fail-safe brakes for use on steep gradients’
    • ‘On the upper part of the mountain the gradient was so steep that climbers had to lean forward to prevent overbalancing.’
    • ‘A clanking, wheezing locomotive went past the cabin climbing the steep gradient.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Dangerous inclines, gradients and sharp curves add to the mess.’
    • ‘Road sections which included steep gradients, major drainage structures and thick chip seal surface layers were normally excluded.’
    • ‘The rise in altitude from 6,000 ft to double that was reached via heartstoppingly steep gradients and hairpin bends.’
    • ‘The gradient is steep to begin with as the road goes through sharp bends.’
    • ‘A fountain and water channel will see water flowing in spirals down the steep gradient of the street.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Its high mobility enables it to climb steep gradients and sizeable steps.’
    • ‘The drive up the two lane mountain road with excellent gradients is 13 km.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Conditions were heinous, the largely off-trail section proving unrideable due to dense forest, boggy peat, streams, briars, bushes and steep gradients.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Narrow-gauge locomotives were relatively small, and steep gradients and sharp curves reduced train speeds.’
    • ‘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.’
    slope, incline, hill, rise, rising ground, bank, ramp, acclivity
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1The degree of a slope.
      ‘the path becomes very rough as the gradient increases’
      • ‘Mountain trails typically have gradients of 15, 20, and 25 degrees.’
      • ‘The distance is about 65 kilometres and the rising gradient averages less than one per cent.’
      • ‘Chen said the council's plan is to ban the planting of betel trees on mountainsides with a gradient of more than 30 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘After completing two minutes at a fairly easy pace, increase the resistance and raise the gradient to 20 percent.’
      • ‘The lower 150m section has a gentle gradient of 12 degrees providing an ample and safe area to test out those first turns.’
      • ‘It is a steep, cobbled climb, with a maximum gradient of 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Humidity hovered around 95 per cent and track gradients of greater than 1: 1 were the norm.’
      • ‘It is 12.4km long and has an average gradient of 4.5 per cent.’
      • ‘The forest stands characterized by steep slopes and high gradients supported the highest basal area of hemlock.’
      steepness, angle, slant, slope, inclination, leaning
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2Mathematics The degree of steepness of a graph at any point.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Differentiation is a method of working out the gradient of a curve - how quickly one variable changes with respect to another.’
  • 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. 2.1The 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.