Quick Summary

The Latin root word grad and its variant gress both mean “step.” These roots are the word origin of many English vocabulary words, including graduate, gradual, aggressive, and egress. When you graduate, you are ready for the next “step” in your education; likewise, when you make a great deal of progress, you have “stepped” forward.

Grad Steps on the Gress

The Latin root word grad and its variant gress both mean “step.”

Let’s make the grade and take the first “step” with the root word grad. A grad or graduate has taken the next “step” up the educational ladder. Along the path towards graduation a graduate has received a lot of grades, or “steps” indicating how well she did in a certain subject: an “A” being the highest “step,” an “F” the lowest. A grade school consists of several grades," or “steps,” in elementary education, usually consisting of kindergarten through fifth grade. When a student moves gradually from 1st-12th grade, she is taking things “step” by “step” by not skipping any grades. Along the way, a student might have used a centigrade thermometer in science class, which uses a scale consisting of 100 “steps,” or degrees. She may also have used a graduated cylinder, a measuring device used in chemistry with small “steps” of volume marked upon it.

A common variant of grad is gress, which also means “step.” When you’ve made a lot of progress on a project, you’ve really “stepped” forward on it. Congress is a “stepping” together of elected officials who run our nation. If you are aggressive, you “step” towards someone with hostility. Sometimes aggressive people can overstep their boundaries and transgress upon another’s rights, or “step” across a line that should not be crossed. Speaking of crossing a line, an ingress is the entrance to a building where one “steps” in, or the act itself of “stepping” in; an egress, on the other hand, is the exit where one “steps” out, or the act of “stepping” out.

Lest I digress by “stepping” outside the bounds of this presentation, I will now regress or “step” back from this presentation so I can congratulate all the new graduates of the root words grad and gress—“step” right up to get your diplomas!

  1. grade: an academic ‘step’
  2. graduate: to take the next ‘step’ in one’s education, or one who has done so
  3. graduation: the act of taking the next ‘step’ in one’s education
  4. gradual: of moving slowly, ‘step’ by ‘step’
  5. centigrade: heat measuring system possessing 100 ‘steps’
  6. graduated: having ‘steps’
  7. progress: a ‘stepping’ forward
  8. Congress: institution where lawmakers ‘step’ together
  9. aggressive: of ‘stepping’ towards another with hostility
  10. ingress: a ‘stepping’ in, or the entrance where one ‘steps’ in
  11. egress: a ‘stepping’ out, or the exit where one ‘steps’ out
  12. digress: a ‘stepping’ apart
  13. regress: a ‘stepping’ back


  • retrograde

    A retrograde action causes a return to a condition or situation that is worse instead of better than the present one.

  • gradation

    A gradation is a series of successive small differences or changes in something that add up to an overall major change; this word can also refer to a degree or step in that series of changes.

  • gradient

    A gradient is an upward or downward slanting slope, the steepness of that slope, or the rate of change of a measured quantity over a given distance.

  • gradual

    A gradual development occurs slowly in a number of steps over a long period of time.

  • ingredient

    An ingredient is one thing that is put into something that helps make it, such as chocolate in a cake.

  • centigrade

    of or relating to a temperature scale on which the freezing point of water is 0 degrees and the boiling point of water is 100 degrees

  • degradation

    changing to a lower state (a less respected state)

  • degrade

    reduce the level of land, as by erosion

  • degrading

    harmful to the mind or morals

  • grad

    one-hundredth of a right angle

  • gradate

    arrange according to grades

  • gradated

    arranged according to grades or steps

  • grade

    assign a rank or rating to

  • gradualism

    the policy of doing something via incremental steps

  • graduate

    receive an academic degree upon completion of one's studies

  • graduation

    the successful completion of a program of study

  • undergraduate

    a university student who has not yet received a first degree

  • upgrade

    rate higher

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