find one's (own) level, to attain the place or position merited by one's abilities or achievements: He finally found his level as one of the directors of the firm.
    one's level best, one's very best; one's utmost: We tried our level best to get here on time.
    on the level, Informal. honest; sincere; reliable: Is this information on the level?

Origin of level

1300–50; Middle English (noun and v.), variant of livel (noun) < Middle French < Vulgar Latin *lībellum, for Latin lībella plummet line, level, diminutive of lībra balance, scales; for formation, see castellum
Related formslev·el·ly, adverblev·el·ness, nounan·ti·lev·el·ing, adjectivean·ti·lev·el·ling, adjectivein·ter·lev·el, adjectivenon·lev·el, adjectivere·lev·el, verb, re·lev·eled, re·lev·el·ing or (especially British) re·lev·elled, re·lev·el·ling.self-lev·el·ing, adjectiveself-lev·el·ling, adjectiveun·der·lev·el, adjectiveun·lev·el, adjectiveun·lev·el·ly, adverbun·lev·el·ness, nounun·lev·eled, adjectiveun·lev·elled, adjectivewell-lev·eled, adjectivewell-lev·elled, adjective

Synonyms for level

1, 2. flush. Level, even, flat, smooth suggest a uniform surface without marked unevenness. That which is level is parallel to the horizon: a level surface; A billiard table must be level. Flat is applied to any plane surface free from marked irregularities: a flat roof. With reference to land or country, flat connotes lowness or unattractiveness; level does not suggest anything derogatory. That which is even is free from irregularities, though not necessarily level or plane: an even land surface with no hills. Smooth suggests a high degree of evenness in any surface, especially to the touch and sometimes to the sight: as smooth as silk. 19. smooth, flatten. 21. raze, demolish, destroy. 23. equalize. 26. direct.

Antonyms for level Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for on the level



on a horizontal plane
having a surface of completely equal height
being of the same height as something else
(of quantities to be measured, as in recipes) even with the top of the cup, spoon, etc
equal to or even with (something or someone else)
not having or showing inconsistency or irregularities
Also: level-headed even-tempered; steady

verb -els, -elling or -elled or US -els, -eling or -eled

(tr sometimes foll by off) to make (a surface) horizontal, level, or even
to make (two or more people or things) equal, as in position or status
(tr) to raze to the ground
(tr) to knock (a person) down by or as if by a blow
(tr) to direct (a gaze, criticism, etc) emphatically at someone
(intr often foll by with) informal to be straightforward and frank
(intr; foll by off or out) to manoeuvre an aircraft into a horizontal flight path after a dive, climb, or glide
(often foll by at) to aim (a weapon) horizontally
surveying to determine the elevation of a section of (land), sighting through a levelling instrument to a staff at successive pairs or points


a horizontal datum line or plane
a device, such as a spirit level, for determining whether a surface is horizontal
a surveying instrument consisting basically of a telescope with a spirit level attached, used for measuring relative heights of landSee Abney level, dumpy level
a reading of the difference in elevation of two points taken with such an instrument
position or status in a scale of values
amount or degree of progress; stage
a specified vertical position; altitude
a horizontal line or plane with respect to which measurement of elevation is basedsea level
a flat even surface or area of land
a horizontal passage or drift in a mine
any of the successive layers of material that have been deposited with the passage of time to build up and raise the height of the land surface
physics the ratio of the magnitude of a physical quantity to an arbitrary magnitudesound-pressure level
do one's level best to make every possible effort; try one's utmost
find one's level to find one's most suitable place socially, professionally, etc
on a level on the same horizontal plane as another
on the level informal sincere, honest, or genuine
Derived Formslevelly, adverblevelness, noun

Word Origin for level

C14: from Old French livel, from Vulgar Latin lībellum (unattested), from Latin lībella, diminutive of lībra scales
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 on the level



early 15c., from level (n.). To do one's level best is from 1851.



mid-15c., "to make level," from level (n.). From c.1600 as "to bring to a level;" 1958 as "to cease increasing." Meaning "to aim a gun" is late 15c. Slang sense of "tell the truth" is from 1920. To level up "to rise" is attested by 1863.

A word here as to the misconception labored under by our English neighbor; he evidently does not understand the American manner of doing things. We never level down in this country; we are always at work on the up grade. "Level up! Level up!" is the motto of the American people. [James E. Garretson, "Professional Education," in "The Dental Cosmos," Philadelphia, 1865]

To level off "cease rising or falling" is from 1920, originally in aviation.



mid-14c., "tool to indicate a horizontal line," from Old French livel "a level" (13c.), ultimately from Latin libella "a balance, level," diminutive of libra "balance, scale, unit of weight," from PIE *lithra. Cognate Spanish nivel, Modern French niveau are from the same source but altered by dissimilation. Meaning "horizontality" is from c.1400. Meaning "position as marked by a horizontal line" is from 1530s. Phrase on the level "fair, honest" is from 1872; earlier it meant "moderate, without great ambition" (1790).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for on the level




Relative position or rank on a graded scale, such as mental or emotional development.
A relative degree, as of intensity or concentration.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Culture definitions for on the level

on the level

Honest, without deception: “We doubted that the offer could be genuine, but it turned out to be on the level.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with on the level

on the level

Honest, straightforward, sincere, as in You can believe her—she's on the level. This expression may have come from Freemasonry, where the carpenter's level symbolizes integrity. [Late 1800s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with level

  • level best
  • level off
  • level with someone

also see:

  • do one's (level) best
  • on the level
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.