by degrees

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1. One of a series of steps in a process, course, or progression; a stage: proceeded to the next degree of difficulty.
2. A step in a direct hereditary line of descent or ascent: First cousins are two degrees from their common ancestor.
3. Relative social or official rank, dignity, or position.
4. Relative intensity or amount, as of a quality or attribute: a high degree of accuracy.
5. The extent or measure of a state of being, an action, or a relation: modernized their facilities to a large degree.
6. A unit division of a temperature scale.
7. Mathematics A planar unit of angular measure equal in magnitude to 1/360 of a complete revolution.
8. A unit of latitude or longitude, equal to 1/360 of a great circle.
9. Mathematics
a. The greatest sum of the exponents of the variables in a term of a polynomial or polynomial equation.
b. The exponent of the derivative of highest order in a differential equation in standard form.
a. An academic title given by a college or university to a student who has completed a course of study: received the Bachelor of Arts degree at commencement.
b. A similar title conferred as an honorary distinction.
11. Law A division or classification of a specific crime according to its seriousness: murder in the second degree.
12. A classification of the severity of an injury, especially a burn: a third-degree burn.
13. Grammar One of the forms used in the comparison of adjectives and adverbs. For example, tall is the positive degree, taller the comparative degree, and tallest the superlative degree of the adjective tall.
14. Music
a. One of the seven notes of a diatonic scale.
b. A space or line of the staff.
by degrees
Little by little; gradually.
to a degree
To a small extent; in a limited way: doesn't like spicy food, but can eat a little pepper to a degree.

[Middle English degre, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *dēgradus : Latin dē-, de- + Latin gradus, step; see ghredh- in Indo-European roots.]
smám saman
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(diˈgriː) noun
1. (an) amount or extent. There is still a degree of uncertainty; The degree of skill varies considerably from person to person.
2. a unit of temperature. 20° (= 20 degrees) Celsius.
3. a unit by which angles are measured. at an angle of 90 (= 90 degrees).
4. a title or certificate given by a university etc. He took a degree in chemistry.
by degrees
gradually. We reached the desired standard of efficiency by degrees.
to a degree
to a small extent. I agree with you to a degree, but I have doubts about your conclusions.
References in classic literature ?
The iceberg was by degrees becoming an ice-field, the mountain a plain.
However, when Tom grew up, and gave tokens of that gallantry of temper which greatly recommends men to women, this disinclination which she had discovered to him when a child, by degrees abated, and at last she so evidently demonstrated her affection to him to be much stronger than what she bore her own son, that it was impossible to mistake her any longer.
The sun was no longer warming the projectile with its direct rays, and thus it was losing the heat stored up in its walls by degrees.