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 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 That first evening, Rohr read a passage from Genesis, the account of Jacob’s ladder. Fred Bahnson, Harpers Magazine, "The Gate of Heaven Is Everywhere," 5 Jan. 2021 The Mini Cooper SE was a hoot to drive, the Polestar 2 impressed with a great interior, as did the Audi e-tron Sportback, although at a price that's another rung up the ladder. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "The best cars, SUVs, and crossovers we drove in 2020," 27 Dec. 2020 Now more female ob-gyns are climbing the ladder in hospital leadership. Julie Washington, cleveland, "From California and Ecuador to Cleveland Clinic’s first female chief of staff, Dr. Beri Ridgeway breaks barriers," 25 Dec. 2020 In the innumerable hurdles, one piled upon another, that make Black Americans’ climb up the socioeconomic ladder more daunting than ever, their successes more fragile and their setbacks more consequential. Akilah Johnson, ProPublica, "How COVID-19 Hollowed Out a Generation of Young Black Men," 22 Dec. 2020 Each step along the ladder toward authoritarianism is narrated by Abubakar Salim’s disconcertingly dulcet voice. Yussef Cole, Wired, "Orwell's Animal Farm Sticks a Bit Too Close to the Source Material," 16 Dec. 2020 The pair asked the homeowner if the ladder was for sale, and was told no. Daily Southtown Staff,, "Southland crime: Stolen change adds up to burglary charges in Oak Lawn, and more," 15 Dec. 2020 Fans warned Tim to be careful after the country legend shared a photo of himself decorating the tree while perched on an extremely high ladder. Tierney Mcafee, Country Living, "Fans Are Awestruck by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Insanely Giant Christmas Tree," 13 Dec. 2020 Birch Lane has farmhouse and traditional furniture including ladder and corner bookcases as well as floating shelves and metal etageres on sale. oregonlive, "Zooming with the family over the holidays? Style your room with impressive books, plants, collectibles on sale," 12 Dec. 2020

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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Statistics for ladder

Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ladder.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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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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