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noun, plural: gradients

(1) A slope, which may be upward or downward.

(2) The degree of steepness or inclination, e.g., of a road or other geographic features.

(2) The rate of change of one variable relative to another, e.g. a physical quantity (e.g. temperature or pressure) increases or decreases relative to change in a given variable (e.g. distance).

(3) The rate of change in growth, metabolism, or physiological activity of a cell or organism.


Word origin: From Latin gradiens, present participle of gradior (“‘to step, to walk’”).

Related phrases: concentration gradient, proton gradient, potential gradient.

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