echelon

noun
ech·e·lon | \ˈe-shə-ˌlän \

Definition of echelon 

(Entry 1 of 2)

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 ahead

b : 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

2a : one of a series of levels or grades in an organization or field of activity involved employees at every echelon

b : a group of individuals at a particular level or grade in an organization or field of activity the upper echelons of management

echelon

verb
echeloned; echeloning; echelons

Definition of echelon (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to form or arrange in an echelon

intransitive verb

: to take position in an echelon

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Noun

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.

Examples of echelon in a Sentence

Noun

the lower echelons of the bureaucracy We heard stories of corruption in the upper echelons of the firm.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Despite his advancing years, Buffon is still regarded in the upper echelons of goalkeeping ability, with his €52m move to Turin back in 2001 giving him the prestigious honor of being the world's most expensive goalkeeper for well over a decade. SI.com, "PSG Signs Goalkeeping Legend Gianluigi Buffon to One-Year Deal," 6 July 2018 The now-defunct theory that Mr. Trump was Russia’s cat’s-paw had been widely adopted at the highest echelons of the Obama administration. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Open Up the Horowitz Secret Appendix," 15 June 2018 Increasing Representation His comments contrast with efforts by some industry rivals to increase female representation at the upper echelons. Fortune, "Qatar Airways CEO Apologizes for Saying His Job Must Be Held by a Man," 6 June 2018 The Kings won't have enough salary cap space to pursue the upper-echelon free agents if veteran guard Garrett Temple opts in for his $8 million salary for next season. Jason Jones, sacbee, "A hole at small forward, young talents and trades: Kings have options in free agency," 28 June 2018 Yet even these top-echelon firms are not able to completely control core technology. Ling Chen, Washington Post, "How this trade war could backfire — in China’s favor," 25 June 2018 Rounding out the top echelon was the 2015 Ribbon Ridge Cascadia from Brick House, lively and stony, with flavors of herbs and lemon. Eric Asimov, New York Times, "Chardonnay, the Oregon Way," 14 June 2018 If Jepsen didn’t notice his ascent into the state’s upper echelon of players, opposing coaches sure did. Logan Malloy, Daily Southtown, "Simply marvelous: Marist's Marty Jepsen is the 2018 Daily Southtown Boys Volleyball Player of the Year," 14 June 2018 Though still an upper-echelon defender, Talib isn’t even the most dynamic corner Los Angeles traded for this offseason. Andy Benoit, SI.com, "Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters: How a Pair of High-End Corners Could Give the Rams the Edge," 20 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'echelon.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of echelon

Noun

1796, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Verb

circa 1860, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for echelon

Noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about echelon

Listen to Our Podcast about echelon

Dictionary Entries near echelon

echelette

Echelidae

echelle

echelon

echelonment

echeneid

Echeneis

Statistics for echelon

Last Updated

19 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for echelon

The first known use of echelon was in 1796

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for echelon

echelon

noun

English Language Learners Definition of echelon

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on echelon

What made you want to look up echelon? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

evasion of direct action or statement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!