Word of the Day : December 22, 2011


noun ESH-uh-lahn


1 : a steplike arrangement

2 a : one of a series of levels or grades in an organization or field of activity

b : the individuals at such a level

Did You Know?

"Echelon" is a useful word for anyone who is climbing the ladder of success. It traces back to "scala," a Late Latin word meaning "ladder" that was the ancestor of the Old French "eschelon," meaning "rung of a ladder." Over time, the French word (which is "échelon" in Modern French) came to mean "step," "grade," or "level." When it was first borrowed into English in the 18th century, "echelon" referred specifically to a steplike arrangement of troops, but it now usually refers to a level or category within an organization or group of people.


We heard stories of corruption in the higher echelons of the firm.

"The Horseheads school district is in the upper echelon of upstate school districts, according to a new list created by a Buffalo business publication." -- From an article by Jeff Murray in the Elmira Star-Gazette (New York), November 13, 2011

Word Family Quiz

What 8-letter word begins with "e," is a descendant of "scala," and means "an act of scaling walls "? The answer is ...


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!