[hahy-uh-rahr-kee, hahy-rahr-]

noun, plural hi·er·ar·chies.

Origin of hierarchy

1300–50; < Medieval Latin hierarchia < Late Greek hierarchía rule or power of the high priest, equivalent to hier- hier- + archía -archy; replacing Middle English jerarchie < Middle French ierarchie < Medieval Latin ierarchia, variant of hierarchia
Related formsan·ti·hi·er·ar·chy, noun, plural an·ti·hi·er·ar·chies, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for hierarchies

ranking, position, pyramid, scale, grouping, placing

Examples from the Web for hierarchies

Contemporary Examples of hierarchies

  • But certainly we have all these hierarchies of what is considered great literature, and the canon can be dictatorial.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Interview: ‘Heroines’ Author Kate Zambreno

    Michele Filgate

    November 23, 2012

  • Netanyahu could also pressure the Haredi rabbis, taking advantage of the hierarchies within the community.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Get Creative For Yossi Falafel

    Gil Troy

    July 17, 2012

  • Such honor is often based on competition and, as one would expect, lends itself to hierarchies.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why We Still Need Honor

    Ian Klaus

    September 18, 2010

Historical Examples of hierarchies

  • A homely utterance, but it has virtue to overthrow all dynasties and hierarchies.

    The Guardian Angel

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

  • She began to get a faint perception of hierarchies and powers.

    Jennie Gerhardt

    Theodore Dreiser

  • It is not the hierarchies of the past or the present of whom we have spoken.

    Creed And Deed

    Felix Adler

  • At their feet were nine choirs of angels ranged by hierarchies upon the steps.

  • In the ninth heaven is a manifestation of the Divine Essence, viewed by three hierarchies of Angels.

British Dictionary definitions for hierarchies


noun plural -chies

a system of persons or things arranged in a graded order
a body of persons in holy orders organized into graded ranks
the collective body of those so organized
a series of ordered groupings within a system, such as the arrangement of plants and animals into classes, orders, families, etc
linguistics maths a formal structure, usually represented by a diagram of connected nodes, with a single uppermost elementCompare ordering, heterarchy, tree (def. 6)
government by an organized priesthood
Derived Formshierarchical or hierarchic, adjectivehierarchically, adverbhierarchism, noun

Word Origin for hierarchy

C14: from Medieval Latin hierarchia, from Late Greek hierarkhia, from hierarkhēs high priest; see hiero-, -archy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for hierarchies



mid-14c., from Old French ierarchie, from Medieval Latin hierarchia "ranked division of angels" (in the system of Dionysius the Areopagite), from Greek hierarkhia "rule of a high priest," from hierarkhes "high priest, leader of sacred rites," from ta hiera "the sacred rites" (neuter plural of hieros "sacred;" see ire) + arkhein "to lead, rule" (see archon). Sense of "ranked organization of persons or things" first recorded 1610s, initially of clergy, sense probably influenced by higher. Related: Hierarchal; hierarchical.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper