1. a structure of wood, metal, or rope, commonly consisting of two sidepieces between which a series of bars or rungs are set at suitable distances, forming a means of climbing up or down.
  2. something resembling this.
  3. a means of rising, as to eminence: the ladder of success.
  4. a graded series of stages or levels in status; a hierarchical order of position or rank: high on the political ladder.
  5. Nautical. companionway(def 1).
  6. Chiefly British. a run in a stocking.
verb (used with object)
  1. to climb or mount by means of a ladder: to ladder a wall.
  2. to furnish with a ladder: to ladder a water tower.
  3. Chiefly British. to cause a run in (a stocking).
verb (used without object)
  1. Chiefly British. to get a run, as in a stocking.
  2. to gain in popularity or importance: He laddered to the top of his profession.

Origin of ladder

before 1000; Middle English laddre, Old English hlǣder; cognate with German Leiter, Dutch leer (also ladder < Fris); akin to Gothic hleithra tent; orig., something that slopes. See lean1
Related formslad·der·less, adjectivelad·der·like, lad·der·y, adjective
Can be confusedladder latter Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ladderlike

Historical Examples of ladderlike

  • A ladderlike stair leading directly from the kitchen takes me into the loft.

    The Woman Who Toils

    Mrs. John Van Vorst and Marie Van Vorst

  • Her father, in a grotesque crouching posture, was mounting the ladderlike stair.

    The Book of Susan

    Lee Wilson Dodd

  • A ladderlike stair led up from one side of the kitchen, opposite to the single window and the small coal range.

    The Book of Susan

    Lee Wilson Dodd

  • Jimmie Dale's flashlight played on a short, ladderlike stairway, and in an instant he was climbing upward.

  • Ross crawled free and clung dizzily to a ladderlike disembarking structure.

    The Time Traders

    Andre Norton

British Dictionary definitions for ladderlike


  1. a portable framework of wood, metal, rope, etc, in the form of two long parallel members connected by several parallel rungs or steps fixed to them at right angles, for climbing up or down
  2. any hierarchy conceived of as having a series of ascending stages, levels, etcthe social ladder
    1. anything resembling a ladder
    2. (as modifier)ladder stitch
  3. Also called: run mainly British a line of connected stitches that have come undone in knitted material, esp stockings
  4. See ladder tournament
  1. mainly British to cause a line of interconnected stitches in (stockings, etc) to undo, as by snagging, or (of a stocking) to come undone in this way

Word Origin for ladder

Old English hlǣdder; related to Old High German leitara
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 ladderlike



Old English hlæder "ladder, steps," from Proto-Germanic *khlaidri (cf. Old Frisian hledere, Middle Dutch ledere, Old High German leitara, German Leiter), from PIE root *klei- "to lean" (cf. Greek klimax "ladder;" see lean (v.)). In late Old English, rungs were læddrestæfæ and the side pieces were ledder steles. The belief that walking under one brings bad luck is attested from 1787, but its origin likely is more pragmatic than symbolic. Ladder-back (adj.) as a type of chair is from 1898.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with ladderlike


see bottom of the ladder.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.