noun, often attributive
lad·​der | \ˈla-dər \

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

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Other Words from ladder

ladderlike \ˈla-​dər-​ˌlīk \ 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

Why would Congress support a plan that places the economic ladder of homeownership even further out of reach? WSJ, "Hensarling’s GSE Reform Is the Wrong Move," 12 Sep. 2018 Like climbing a ladder, driverless technology will have to be proven to people step by step before the ultimate rollout. Eric Ellis, Fortune, "2 Things That Need to Happen for Driverless Cars to Go Mainstream," 28 June 2018 More private companies are hiring women for technical and manual labor jobs, helping pull poor families or single mothers up the socio-economic ladder. Margaret Coker, New York Times, "Saudi Women Can Drive, but Here’s the Real Roadblock," 22 June 2018 Until recently, Massachusetts students of limited means could readily find a path to the state’s flagship public university and earn a degree that would likely catapult them up the economic ladder. Deirdre Fernandes,, "Needy students squeezed at UMass Amherst," 5 May 2018 At the bottom of the economic ladder, the alternative to accepting the arbitrary dictates of an abusive manager can be accepting an empty stomach. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Libertarian Think Tank Let Boss Sexually Harass Workers," 8 Feb. 2018 However, this time the stage got stuck, and Bey was faced with a tall ladder to climb down in her thigh-high stiletto boots. Sarah Spellings, The Cut, "Beyoncé Stranded on Floating Stage During Concert," 2 July 2018 Sirati told the Guardian that the ladder wasn't properly reinforced by the builders. Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Washington Post, "A man was crushed to death beneath his mother’s coffin," 18 June 2018 The ugly: Falling off three separate billboards because ladders are fussy. Steven Strom, Ars Technica, "State of Decay 2 review: Shambling toward nothing," 22 May 2018

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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Statistics for ladder

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ladder

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

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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


lad·​der | \ˈla-dər \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on ladder

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ladder

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ladder

Spanish Central: Translation of ladder

Nglish: Translation of ladder for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ladder for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ladder

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


living or existing for a long time

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