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In rock-climbing, we describe an incline as "steep" (which is anything from 90 degrees to overhanging) but we don't have a good word to mean "not steep". At least I've never heard anyone use one; instead people use convoluted phrases like "not too steep".

I looked at the “opposite for 'steep learning curve'” post, but none of those suggestions really seems to fit here.

Edit: I asked a rock-climbing English major and she said that "low-angle" and "slabby" were most often used for cliffs in the 50-90 degree range.

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Downhill isn't what you're looking for, is it? ;) –  muntoo Apr 15 '11 at 4:50
    
You can still have a steep downhill though @muntoo –  rmx Apr 15 '11 at 11:49

8 Answers 8

up vote 36 down vote accepted

I'd say shallow or gentle are suitable...

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+1 for shallow. –  Kelly Hess Apr 14 '11 at 21:57
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I wouldn't -1 this but, to me, "shallow" implies a negative incline (i.e., that I am observing the incline from the higher end, though I can't articulate a concrete reason). I say a "shallow bowl" for example, because I observe the bowl from outside the high edge (or, perhaps, because it's concave). –  msanford Apr 14 '11 at 23:31
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+1 for gentle. That was my first thought. :) –  kitukwfyer Apr 15 '11 at 0:01
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I think "gentle" always works (gentle incline, gentle decline, gentle slope, gentle ascent, gentle descent), but "shallow" only really works for descents (shallow decline, shallow descent) due to the concave connotations that msanford pointed out. –  ncoghlan Apr 15 '11 at 2:30
    
While I agree it might fit, I don't like shallow as an opposite of steep! –  Trufa Apr 15 '11 at 6:20

Perhaps one of these?

  • Flat
  • Gentle

If a noun works for your usage, you could go with glacis which means "gentle slope"

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1  
Thesaurus says "gentle" as well (about cliffs), so I think you got it. About "a steep increase", so something in general, it says "gradual", just saying. –  Alenanno Apr 14 '11 at 21:11
    
+1 Indeed, I say "a steep mountain face" and "a gentle hill". –  msanford Apr 14 '11 at 23:29
    
In french (especially for bicycle riders) we have this phrase: "un faux plat" meaning "a treacherously not so horizontal road section". –  ogerard Apr 15 '11 at 4:51

I would suggest you can call it "a gradual incline."

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To me that means a change in incline. –  Prof. Falken Apr 15 '11 at 8:34

Steep is also used in reference to learning curves or ramp-ups that are difficult. In that context, or in the context of a hill or a rock to climb, some of the opposites suggested so far (gentle, gradual) make sense, as do simple, easy or comfortable.

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I would just use the word declining, descent or maybe recession.

The hill is declining. We began our descent.

or

We shall now begin our trek on the declining hill.

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The poster was not asking for the opposite of incline, but rather the opposite of steeply sloping, regardless of direction. –  Adam Smith Apr 15 '11 at 3:02

In the context indicated (hills), I find that the opposite of steep is most clearly expressed in the form of two-word phrase using one of the words already mentioned in previous answers, plus the word sloping, such as gently sloping, or gradually sloping.

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Although gentle works, it usually connotes a descent. A great choice for this, especially as it relates to climbing (ascent), is easy.

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In the context of inclines, I suggest that 'slight' is most commonly used as the opposite of steep.

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