noun, often attributive
lad·​der | \ ˈla-dər How to pronounce ladder (audio) \

Definition of ladder

1 : a structure for climbing up or down that consists essentially of two long sidepieces joined at intervals by crosspieces on which one may step
2 : something that resembles or suggests a ladder in form or use especially : run sense 11a
3 : a series of usually ascending steps or stages : scale climbing up the corporate ladder

Other Words from ladder

ladderlike \ ˈla-​dər-​ˌlīk How to pronounce ladder (audio) \ adjective

Examples of ladder in a Sentence

He was moving up the corporate ladder. She worked her way up from the lowest rung on the economic ladder. She got a ladder in her stocking.
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Recent Examples on the Web On top of that, talent is overwhelmingly a priority as the labor force reaches the conclusion that climbing the career ladder isn’t all it's cut out to be. Aman Kidwai, Fortune, 5 Jan. 2022 Studies show that optimists, compared to pessimists, have lower stress levels, move faster up the career ladder, have fewer health complaints, and live longer. Bryan Robinson, Forbes, 1 Jan. 2022 Michael Grimshaw made his way up the ladder after a disappointing day of hauling traps. David Abel,, 13 Dec. 2021 While wanting to reach the top of the career ladder is admirable, be sure to keep your dream in perspective. Tarot Astrologers,, 27 Nov. 2021 Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver star in this quintessential workplace comedy about a secretary making her way up the corporate ladder. Marley Marius, Vogue, 8 Nov. 2021 Others have spent time coming up the ladder with Rutschman and beat him to the majors. Jon Meoli,, 20 Sep. 2021 Rather than scale the career ladder in search of higher salaries, financial advisers say these workers want work-life balance, giving priority to family time and personal life. Julia Carpenter, WSJ, 10 Sep. 2021 Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu was on the top rung of a ladder, scissors in hand, ready to snip a net in celebration of the Big Ten Tournament championship. Chicago Tribune Staff,, 23 Dec. 2021

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

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First Known Use of ladder

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ladder

Middle English, from Old English hlǣder; akin to Old High German leitara ladder, Old English hlinian to lean — more at lean

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Time Traveler for ladder

Time Traveler

The first known use of ladder was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ladder.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for ladder



English Language Learners Definition of ladder

: a device used for climbing that has two long pieces of wood, metal, or rope with a series of steps or rungs between them
: a series of steps or stages by which someone moves up to a higher or better position
: a long hole in a stocking : run


lad·​der | \ ˈla-dər How to pronounce ladder (audio) \

Kids Definition of ladder

: a device used for climbing usually consisting of two long pieces of wood, rope, or metal joined at short distances by horizontal pieces on which a person may step

More from Merriam-Webster on ladder

Nglish: Translation of ladder for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ladder for Arabic Speakers


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