English Dictionary

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hierarchy (ˈhaɪəˌrɑːkɪ Pronunciation for hierarchy



(plural) -chies
  1. a system of persons or things arranged in a graded order
  2. a body of persons in holy orders organized into graded ranks
  3. the collective body of those so organized
  4. a series of ordered groupings within a system, such as the arrangement of plants and animals into classes, orders, families, etc
  5. (linguistics, mathematics) a formal structure, usually represented by a diagram of connected nodes, with a single uppermost element Compare ordering, heterarchy, tree (sense 6)
  6. government by an organized priesthood

Derived Forms

ˌhierˈarchical, ˌhierˈarchic adjective
ˌhierˈarchically adverb
ˈhierˌarchism noun

Word Origin

C14: from Medieval Latin hierarchia, from Late Greek hierarkhia, from hierarkhēs high priest; see hiero-, -archy


View thesaurus entry
= grading, ranking, social order, pecking order, class system, social stratum

Quotations including 'hierarchy'

  • "We rank ourselves by the familiar dog system, a ladderlike social arrangement wherein one individual outranks all others, the next outranks all but the first, and so on down the hierarchy" [Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
  • "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence" [Laurence Peter

Translations for 'hierarchy'

  • British English: hierarchy A hierarchy is a system of organizing people into different ranks or levels of importance, for example in society or in a company. NOUNLike most other companies with a rigid hierarchy, workers and managers had strictly defined duties.
  • Brazilian Portuguese: hierarquia
  • Chinese: 等级制度等级級制度
  • European Spanish: jerarquía
  • French: hiérarchie
  • German: Hierarchie
  • Italian: gerarchia
  • Japanese: 階層性
  • Korean: 위계질서
  • Portuguese: hierarquia
  • Spanish: jerarquía

Example Sentences Including 'hierarchy'

All the necessary calls were made; police, emergency services and the Underground hierarchy were notified.
Christopher Ross TUNNEL VISIONS: Journeys of an Underground Philosopher (2001)
In the end, Shallow Hal is almost radical in its happy rejection of the Hollywood beauty hierarchy.
Glasgow Herald (2002)
It was believed by the Roman Church that these birds ' ability to speak elevated them in the hierarchy of creation.
Tony Juniper SPIX'S MACAW: The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird (2002)
Mr Ward recently took part in protests against the Catholic hierarchy over the sexual abuse of children by priests.
Irish Times (2002)
Opinion: GAA hierarchy must face the Croke Park reality By Maurice Hayes featureseditor@belfasttelegraph.
Belfast Telegraph (2004)
The hierarchy in maternity services meant that in practice obstetricians defined the choices on offer.
British Medical Journal (2002)
They tended to be a well-disciplined body, not merely by conscience alone but by the terms of the hierarchy.
Meek, M R D In Remembrance of Rose
Yugoslavia illustrated the danger of taking sides, simplifying a situation and creating a " hierarchy of victimhood", he added.
Irish Times (2002)
`Old Father continued whistling and said, `There is no disgust hierarchy.
Zindell, David The Broken God


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