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noun hi·er·ar·chy \ˈhī-(ə-)ˌrär-kē also ˈhi(-ə)r-ˌär-\

Simple Definition of hierarchy

  • : a group that controls an organization and is divided into different levels

  • : a system in which people or things are placed in a series of levels with different importance or status

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of hierarchy



  1. 1 :  a division of angels

  2. 2 a :  a ruling body of clergy organized into orders or ranks each subordinate to the one above it; especially :  the bishops of a province or nation b :  church government by a hierarchy

  3. 3 :  a body of persons in authority

  4. 4 :  the classification of a group of people according to ability or to economic, social, or professional standing; also :  the group so classified

  5. 5 :  a graded or ranked series <a hierarchy of values>

Examples of hierarchy in a sentence

  1. … he wrote a verse whose metaphors were read somewhere in the Baathist hierarchy as incitement to Kurdish nationalism. —Geraldine Brooks, Los Angeles Times, 30 Dec. 2001

  2. Whereas the monkeys normally hew to strict hierarchies when it comes to who gets the best food and who grooms whom, there are no obvious top or rotten bananas in the sharing of millipede secretions. —Natalie Angier, New York Times, 5 Dec. 2000

  3. The idea that social order has to come from a centralized, rational, bureaucratic hierarchy was very much associated with the industrial age. —Francis Fukuyama, Atlantic, May 1999

  4. The church hierarchy faced resistance to some of their decisions.

  5. He was at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy.

  6. a rigid hierarchy of social classes

Origin and Etymology of hierarchy

Middle English ierarchie rank or order of holy beings, from Anglo-French jerarchie, from Medieval Latin hierarchia, from Late Greek, from Greek hierarchēs

First Known Use: 14th century

Rhymes with hierarchy

Seen and Heard

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of, relating to, or near a shore

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