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

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Other Words from ladder

ladderlike \ ˈla-​dər-​ˌlīk How to pronounce ladderlike (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 The segregation by income is one reason why low-income residents have difficulty moving up the economic ladder. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Econometer: Should San Diego developers be allowed to put low-income apartments in different buildings?," 2 Aug. 2019 In addition, the office of district attorney has long been a rung on the ladder of political ascent, whose climbers believe that nothing embellishes a résumé like a punitive record. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's magazine, "Power of Attorney," 16 Sep. 2019 Descending a vertical shaft on a wire ladder while being drenched and battered by a waterfall. Ben Santer, Scientific American, "Rock Climbing, Climate Science and Leadership," 16 Sep. 2019 Your first management role is just that, your first shot at overseeing people on a ladder that can be very lengthy. Liz Bentley, Marie Claire, "Is Turning Down a Managerial Role Career Sabotage?," 9 Sep. 2019 The wide receivers ahead of Jones on the pay ladder include Michael Thomas, who on Wednesday, reached an agreement with the New Orleans Saints on a five-year, $96.25 million contract extension. Mark Inabinett |, al, "Julio Jones limiting preseason work to practice," 1 Aug. 2019 Drug manufacturers, pharmacy chains, drug distributors, and insurance companies got rich while people, especially people lower down the income ladder, suffered—and the DEA, through neglect or incompetence or a mix of both, watched it all happen. Zachary Siegel, The New Republic, "The Opioid Crisis Is About More Than Corporate Greed," 30 July 2019 First up, Blizzard announced that DeepMind’s AlphaStar—an artificial intelligence that dominated StarCraft II pros in early 2019—is being unleashed on the public ladder later this year. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Blizzard sics DeepMind on its StarCraft II players, Cuphead heads to Netflix," 12 July 2019 So workers with less money are stuck in worse-paying jobs, with their way up the income ladder blocked off. James P. Sutton, National Review, "Licensing Reform Makes Inroads in Pennsylvania," 10 July 2019

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

26 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for ladder

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

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More Definitions for ladder


How to pronounce ladder (audio)

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
British : a long hole in a stocking


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

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More from Merriam-Webster on ladder

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ladder

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


to engage in dissolute behavior

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