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hierarchy

[hahy-uh-rahr-kee, hahy-rahr-]
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noun, plural hi·er·ar·chies.
  1. any system of persons or things ranked one above another.
  2. government by ecclesiastical rulers.
  3. the power or dominion of a hierarch.
  4. an organized body of ecclesiastical officials in successive ranks or orders: the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
  5. one of the three divisions of the angels, each made up of three orders, conceived as constituting a graded body.
  6. Also called celestial hierarchy. the collective body of angels.
  7. government by an elite group.
  8. Linguistics. the system of levels according to which a language is organized, as phonemic, morphemic, syntactic, or semantic.
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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. 2018

Related Words

ranking, position, pyramid, scale, grouping, placing

Examples from the Web for hierarchy

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • There is no hierarchy in Buddhism: it is a religion of absolute freedom.

  • Army, state, and hierarchy were its visible representatives.

    The Ethics of Coperation

    James Hayden Tufts

  • Nowhere do you find a hierarchy more prevalent than among them.

    The Nabob

    Alphonse Daudet

  • The hierarchy was as imposing as in Spain, and its dominion and influence greater.

  • He was a practical man who meant to increase the power of the hierarchy.

    Folkways

    William Graham Sumner


British Dictionary definitions for hierarchy

hierarchy

noun 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 maths a formal structure, usually represented by a diagram of connected nodes, with a single uppermost elementCompare ordering, heterarchy, tree (def. 6)
  6. government by an organized priesthood
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Derived Formshierarchical or hierarchic, adjectivehierarchically, adverbhierarchism, noun

Word Origin

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 hierarchy

n.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper