Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adverb By a small amount at a time; in stages.
  • adverb In pieces; apart.
  • adjective Accomplished or made in stages.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • By pieces; bit by bit; little by little; gradually: often pleonastically by piecemeal.
  • In pieces; in or into bits or fragments.
  • Fragmentary; disconnected.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Made up of parts or pieces; single; separate.
  • adverb In pieces; in parts or fragments.
  • adverb Piece by piece; by little and little in succession.
  • noun A fragment; a scrap.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Made or done in pieces or one stage at a time.
  • adverb Piece by piece; in small amounts, stages, or degrees.
  • adverb Into pieces or parts.
  • verb transitive To divide or distribute piecemeal; dismember.
  • noun A fragment; a scrap.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adverb a little bit at a time
  • adjective one thing at a time

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English pecemeale : pece, piece; see piece + -mele, by a fixed measure (from Old English -mǣlum, at a time, from dative pl. of mǣl, appointed time; see mē- in Indo-European roots).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English pecemele, from pece ("piece") + mele (from Old English mǣlum ("at a time"), dative plural form of mǣl ("time, measure")), taking the place of Old English styċċemǣlum ("in pieces, bit by bit, piecemeal; to pieces, to bits; here and there, in different places; little by little, by degrees, gradually"); equivalent to piece +‎ -meal.

Examples

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