noun ech·e·lon \ˈe-shə-ˌlän\

Definition of echelon

  1. 1a (1) :  an arrangement of a body of troops with its units each somewhat to the left or right of the one in the rear like a series of steps (2) :  a formation of units or individuals resembling such an echelon geese flying in echelon (3) :  a flight formation in which each airplane flies at a certain elevation above or below and at a certain distance behind and to the right or left of the airplane aheadb :  any of several military units in echelon formation; also :  any unit or group acting in a disciplined or organized manner served in a combat echelon

  2. 2a :  one of a series of levels or grades in an organization or field of activity involved employees at every echelonb :  a group of individuals at a particular level or grade in an organization or field of activity the upper echelons of management

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Examples of echelon in a sentence

  1. the lower echelons of the bureaucracy

  2. We heard stories of corruption in the upper echelons of the firm.

Did You Know?

Echelon is a useful word for anyone who is climbing the ladder of success. It traces back to scala, a Late Latin word meaning "ladder" that was the ancestor of the Old French eschelon, meaning "rung of a ladder." Over time, the French word (which is échelon in Modern French) came to mean "step," "grade," or "level." When it was first borrowed into English in the 18th century, echelon referred specifically to a steplike arrangement of troops, but it now usually refers to a level or category within an organization or group of people.

Origin and Etymology of echelon

French échelon, literally, rung of a ladder, from Old French eschelon, from eschele ladder, from Late Latin scala

First Known Use: 1796



verb ech·e·lon

Definition of echelon

  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to form or arrange in an echelon

  3. intransitive verb
  4. :  to take position in an echelon

Circa 1860

First Known Use of echelon

circa 1860

ECHELON Defined for English Language Learners



noun ech·e·lon \ˈe-shə-ˌlän\

Definition of echelon for English Language Learners

  • : a level in an organization : a level of authority or responsibility

Seen and Heard

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to criticize severely

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