AskDefine | Define granular

Dictionary Definition

granular adj
1 composed of or covered with relatively large particles; "granular sugar"; "gritty sand" [syn: farinaceous, coarse-grained, grainy, granulose, gritty, mealy, sandy]
2 having a granular structure like that of chondrites [syn: chondritic] [ant: achondritic]

User Contributed Dictionary



Compare French granulaire. See granule


  1. Consisting of, or resembling, grains; as, a granular substance. Grainy. Granular limestone, crystalline limestone, or marble, having a granular structure.

Usage notes

A common usage error is to treat the term "granular" as having a well-defined degree, as in "more granular" or "less granular". Such usage is problematic for two reasons:
  • The essential characteristic of being granular is that something is composed of discrete entities as opposed to being continuous, and this is a binary distinction, not a matter of degree.
  • The terms "more granular" and "less granular" are inherently ambiguous: it is not clear whether they intend to indicate finer or coarser granularity. For example, granular sugar is called granular because it is composed of relatively large grains, in contrast with powdered sugar, whose grains are so small that they are not noticeable. Thus, in reference to sugar, "more granular" would refer to coarser granularity. Similarly, if a photograph is "more grainy", it means that the grain particles are larger (coarser) and thus more distinctly visible to the naked eye. Since "grainy" is a synonym for "granular", "more granular" would again refer to coarser granularity in this context. On the other hand, "more granular" is sometimes used in exactly the opposite way: to indicate more plentiful divisions into finer grains.
This usage error can be avoided by instead referring specifically to finer or coarser granularity.


  • 1790, Abraham Mills, Some Strata in Ireland and Scotland, in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 80
    This Whyn Dyke is bare at the cliffs ſeveral yards in height, and is near nine feet in width. It conſiſts of an inner part of a granular and ſomewhat porous texture...


  • Webster 1913



  1. granular


  1. to granulate


es-conj-ar granul

Extensive Definition

See also: grain and film grain
Granularity is a measure of the size of the components, or descriptions of components, that make up a system. Granularity is the relative size, scale, level of detail or depth of penetration that characterizes an object or activity. It is the "extent to which a larger entity is subdivided. For example, a yard broken into inches has finer granularity than a yard broken into feet."
Systems of, or description in terms of, large components are called coarse-grained, and systems of small components are called fine-grained; here coarse and fine are descriptions of the granularity of the system, or the granularity of description of the system.
An example of increasingly fine granularity: a list of nations in the United Nations, a list of all states/provinces in those nations, a list of all counties in those states, etc.
The terms "fine" and "coarse" are used consistently across fields; but the term "granularity" itself is not. For example, in investing, "more granularity" refers to more positions of smaller size, while photographic film that is "more granular" has fewer and larger chemical "grains".

In physics

A fine-grained description of a system is a detailed, low-level model of it. A coarse-grained description is a model where some of this fine detail has been smoothed over or averaged out. The replacement of a fine-grained description with a lower-resolution coarse-grained model is called coarse graining. (See for example the view of the second law of thermodynamics in the article Maximum entropy thermodynamics)

In molecular dynamics

In molecular dynamics, coarse graining consists in replacing an atomistic description of a biological molecule with a lower-resolution coarse-grained model that averages or smooths away fine details. Coarse-grained models have been developed for investigating the longer time- and length-scale dynamics that are critical to many biological processes, such as lipid membranes and proteins.

In computing

In parallel computing, granularity means the amount of computation in relation to communication, i.e., the ratio of computation to the amount of communication.
Fine-grained parallelism means individual tasks are relatively small in terms of code size and execution time. The data are transferred among processors frequently in amounts of one or a few memory words. Coarse-grained is the opposite: data are communicated infrequently, after larger amounts of computation.
The smaller the granularity, the greater the potential for parallelism and hence speed-up, but the greater the overheads of synchronization and communication. (The last two paragraphs are copied verbatim from FOLDOC.)

In Reconfigurable Computing and Supercomputing

In Reconfigurable Computing and in Supercomputing these terms refer to the data path width. The use of about one bit wide processing elements like the configurable logic blocks (CLBs) in an FPGA is called Fine-grained computing or Fine-grained reconfigurability, whereas using wide data paths, such as, for instance 32 bits wide resources, like microprocessor CPUs or data-stream-driven data path units (DPUs) like in a reconfigurable datapath array (rDPA) is called Coarse-grained computing Coarse-grained reconfigurability.

Data Granularity

The granularity of data refers to the fineness with which data fields are sub-divided. For example, a postal address can be recorded, with low granularity, as one field:
  1. address = 200 2nd Ave. South #358, St. Petersburg, FL 33701-4313 USA
or with high granularity, as many fields:
  1. street address = 200 2nd Ave. South #358
  2. city = St. Petersburg
  3. postal code = FL 33701-4313
  4. country = USA
or even higher granularity:
  1. street number = 200
  2. street = 2nd Ave. South #358
  3. city = St. Petersburg
  4. postal code state = FL
  5. postal-code-first-part = 33701
  6. postal-code-second-part = 4313
  7. country = USA
Higher granularity has overheads for data input and storage, but offers benefits in flexibility of data processing.

In credit portfolio risk management

In credit portfolio risk modeling, granularity refers to the number of the exposures in the portfolio. The higher the granularity, the more positions are in a credit portfolio, providing a higher degree of size diversification, which in turn reduces concentration risk. This is colloquially known as "not putting all your eggs in one basket".

In photographic film

In photography, granularity is a measure of film grain. It is measured using a particular standard procedure but in general a larger number means the grains of silver are larger and there are fewer grains in a given area.

In business

The concept of granularity is starting to be used also in domains other than physics. For example, in business it has been written about in the book, The Granularity of Growth: Making choices that drive enduring company performance. Its authors (Viguerie, Smit, and Baghai) say that there’s a problem with the broad-brush way that many companies describe their business opportunities. They argue that real opportunities for company growth can emerge only from a much finer understanding of market segments, their needs, and the capabilities required to serve them well than is typically done. According to the authors, to uncover these small “pockets of opportunity,” executives need to dig down to a deeper level of their organization, which in large companies introduces the challenge of making broad choices at a refined “granular level” without losing focus.

General examples

At a September 2006 White House press briefing, presidential press secretary Tony Snow responded to a question about an asserted link that had existed between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Snow said that Bush indicated there was "no operational relationship" between Zarqawi and Saddam but added, "we just don’t have that kind of granularity in terms of the relationship. And, therefore, we’re not going to outrun the facts."


granular in French: Granularité
granular in Dutch: Granulariteit
granular in Japanese: 粒度

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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