Definition of echelon in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɛʃəlɒn/
Pronunciation: /ˈeɪʃəlɒn/


1A level or rank in an organization, a profession, or society: the upper echelons of the business world
More example sentences
  • He had never said as much and he rarely spoke of his home and his family, but his behaviour, his manner of speech, suggested to her that he had been born into the upper echelons of society.
  • Genuinely democratic consciousness has almost entirely disintegrated within the upper echelons of American society.
  • Buddhism made its first inroads into the upper echelons of Chinese society at this time, and many scholars met to discuss and compare the ideas of these two religions.
level, rank, grade, step, rung, tier, stratum, plane, position, order, division, sector
2 Military A formation of troops, ships, aircraft, or vehicles in parallel rows with the end of each row projecting further than the one in front: the regiment lined up shoulder to shoulder in three tight echelons [mass noun]: there are two planes, lying in echelon with one another
More example sentences
  • From the phalanx to the legion, from the tercio to l' ordre mixte, from the panzer division to fronts in echelon, conventional warfare has featured coherent formations, each trying to break the other.
  • As each flight started on the downwind leg the ships reformed in an echelon to the right and completed before-landing checklists.
  • As planned, we moved the formation to starboard echelon and tried to re-enter for the break.
2.1 [often with modifier] A part of a military force differentiated by position in battle or by function: the rear echelon
More example sentences
  • As part of the in-theater structure required to support the deploying force, ISB echelons must deploy early and primarily by air.
  • UA are the tactical warfighting echelons of the Objective Force and are similar to brigades and battalions.
  • Force Delta, which was the sea echelon of the second airborne battle group, left Germany on 26 July and closed on Beirut between 3 and 5 August.


[with object] Military
Arrange in an echelon formation: the Task Force would take the left, echeloned to be able to sweep in from the west (as noun echeloning) the echeloning of fire teams
More example sentences
  • The Seleucids echeloned their right cavalry wing forward to gain tactical advantage.
  • Reconnaissance efforts should be echeloned parallel to the supported unit.
  • A multi-tier fire delivery system is organized by echeloning the weapons assets on the slopes.


Late 18th century (in sense 2 of the noun): from French échelon, from échelle 'ladder', from Latin scala.

  • Echelon came into English in the military sense describing a formation of troops. The arrangement of troops in echelon is described in its source, for it comes from French échelon, from échelle ‘ladder’, from Latin scala ( see scale). The notion of ‘steps of a ladder’ is reflected in modern figurative use in the context of company hierarchy or strata of society.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ech|elon

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