: controlled, directed, or instituted from the top level
a top-down corporate structure
: proceeding by breaking large general aspects (as of a problem) into smaller more detailed constituents : working from the general to the specific
top-down programming
top-down design

Examples of top-down in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Moreover, the work of transition can be neither top-down (i.e., mold the leader to fit the organization) nor bottom-up (i.e., mold the organization to fit the leader). Sam Rockwell, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 Thus, agency staff must be freed from constitutional constraints to implement top-down utopian blueprints. WSJ, 28 Nov. 2023 Guided by that basic belief, Choudhury, who has spent years advising companies of all sizes on flexible work arrangements, shared a boilerplate recommendation to leaders initiating a return-to-office plan: Aim to pair top-down policy with bottom-up experimentation. Jane Thier, Fortune, 20 Nov. 2023 This storyline bolsters the Kremlin’s efforts to instill a sense of permanent war with the West and to forge an unconditional, top-down national unity, without which Russia will once again fall victim to external besiegement. Maria Snegovaya, Foreign Affairs, 16 Nov. 2023 China’s top-down system means that if Xi signals warmer relations with the U.S., the relationship will probably see an instant improvement. Courtney Subramanian, Los Angeles Times, 15 Nov. 2023 Forget the old-school, top-down managerial hierarchies where leaders command and control. Chris Kille, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 Before OnlyFans, pornography on the internet had been largely a top-down enterprise, with agents, producers, studios and other middlemen hoarding the profits of performers’ work. Drew Harwell, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2023 Different tasks require different environments and tools, and top-down mandates therefore often do more harm than good. Anni Hallila, Fortune, 31 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'top-down.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


from the phrase from the top down

First Known Use

1930, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of top-down was in 1930

Dictionary Entries Near top-down

Cite this Entry

“Top-down.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/top-down. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

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