I’m looking for a word that means (ac)cumulation over time. The time aspect is important. I looked around National Geographic articles on ice sheet formation hoping that I would stumble on a suitable word, but didn’t.

I'm trying to think of a more succint publication title. My current (and somewhat wordy) version is

"A Time-series Accumulation Approach to Soil Moisture Retrieval".

I was looking for an adjective to replace the "time-series accumulation" part.

  • Could you give us an example sentence with a blank for the word? In some contexts, deposit might work; in others it wouldn't, so context would be helpful.
    – TRiG
    May 27, 2015 at 16:39
  • 4
    It's not clear to me what's wrong with "accumulation" itself. Are you looking for something other than a synonym? "over time," as opposed to what? May 27, 2015 at 16:40
  • I was thinking of a more succint publication title. My current (and somewhat wordy) version is "A Time-series Accumulation Approach to Soil Moisture Retrieval". I was looking for an adjective to replace the "time-series accumulation" phrase.
    – mosum
    May 27, 2015 at 16:45
  • @mosum: I took the liberty of editing that into your post
    – Tushar Raj
    May 27, 2015 at 17:13
  • "A serial approach" sounds right to me. It implies things come in one after the other. May 27, 2015 at 17:17

4 Answers 4


How about accretion?

Merriam Webster uses a summary definition of:

: a gradual process in which layers of a material are formed as small amounts are added over time

: something that has grown or accumulated slowly : a product or result of gradual growth

Definition 1: the process of growth or enlargement by a gradual buildup: as,

1a : increase by external addition or accumulation (as by adhesion of external parts or particles)

1b : the increase of land by the action of natural forces

You might also consider a word related to the verb accrue, which Merriam Webster defines in summary as:

: to increase in value or amount gradually as time passes : to grow or build up slowly

Definition 2a: to come about as a natural growth, increase, or advantage

Definition 3: to accumulate or be added periodically

I tend to associate soils more with accretion than accrual, but there are a couple suggestions.

  • Looks correct, but I think even academic types might have to look this one up since it is pretty obscure. "A cumulative approach to soil removal" seems a better title to me. May 29, 2015 at 7:08

If you are looking for:

an increase, especially one that is gradual

this is one of the definitions of a build-up from CDO.

In fact, another dictionary (that is LDOCE) specifically mentions the relationship with time:

build-up [countable usually singular]

1: an increase over a period of time

The definitions vary slightly from dictionary to dictionary, one emphasizes something more than the other, so ODO mentions that the word is used typically of something negative, that leads to a problem, but I don't think that this should stop you: typically doesn't mean exclusively; ODO is the only one out of three dictionaries I checked which mentions this.

You mentioned formation of ice, and there are examples of usage with this:

The ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica became more active. The glacial build-up lasted about 100000 years and ended abruptly, over a few hundred years. Within the build-ups and terminations there were short episodes of glacial advance ...

from: Global biogeochemical cycles edited by Butcher

There are a lot more on Google books.

That being said, I agree with the comments which state that you could use accumulation on its own since it means:

[mass noun] 1 The acquisition or gradual gathering of something: (ODO)

You should probably base the choice on how much you want to emphasize the time relationship and the terminology that is used in your field.

I must say that I don't quite get your example sentence (probably because I'm not from the field and it seems quite technical), so I had to use your definition and example of your own research as a guide.


The adjective for accumulation is cumulative.


I appreciate very much all the quick and helpful responses that I received the past few days. I learned quite a few new words as a result of this exchange.

I'll stick with the phrase "time-series accumulation" for now, as even if I can find a more compact expression, my gain would only be one word fewer. I realize my energy will be more wisely spent on improving the overall manuscript.

Thank you very much for your pointers. This is a fabulous forum on English usage.

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