Definition of hierarchy in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhʌɪərɑːki/

noun (plural hierarchies)

1A system in which members of an organization or society are ranked according to relative status or authority: the initiative was with those lower down in the hierarchy [mass noun]: the trend is to get away from hierarchy and control
More example sentences
  • The most important thing in the election of the chairman was not professional competence in the field, but activity within the Party and a sufficiently high status in the political hierarchy.
  • Not an end in itself, domestic violence is a means of enforcing gender roles in society and maintaining a hierarchy in which men remain in control.
  • On the other hand, family income and education, which may reflect rank in the social hierarchy, are strongly related to health.
1.1 (the hierarchy) The clergy of the Catholic Church or of an episcopal Church: the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Romania
More example sentences
  • With time, the visible role of laity in every aspect of church life may have a significant effect on how the hierarchy, as well as those in the pews, think about the nature of authority in the church.
  • Its work provides a model for future governance of the church, one in which the hierarchy will not only listen to, but also trust, the laity.
  • Christians believe that the Holy Spirit resides in the church through all of us, not just through the hierarchy.
1.2 (the hierarchy) The upper echelons of a hierarchical system: the magazine was read quite widely even by some of the hierarchy
More example sentences
  • For eight years the hierarchy has declined to comment on his departure from Maynooth citing legal privilege and only broke its silence a week ago due to relentless media pressure.
  • Dinner parties and social gatherings on West Road were frequent events, and guests often included visiting academics as well as members of the university hierarchy.
  • If it turns out that Dean reported this guy to the cops, then he at least has more moral sense than several members of the American hierarchy.
1.3An arrangement or classification of things according to relative importance or inclusiveness: a taxonomic hierarchy of phyla, classes, orders, families, genera, and species
More example sentences
  • Clearly, some human rights have greater pre-eminence than others and it may be necessary to identify them through a hierarchy of relative importance.
  • When one classifies some consequences as more critical than others, one is reminded, of course, of the classifications of needs into hierarchies, with some being more basic than others.
  • This distinction was introduced to accommodate fossil taxa within extant taxa without inflating, unnecessarily, the taxonomic hierarchy.
1.4 Theology The traditional system of orders of angels and other heavenly beings: the heavenly hierarchy
More example sentences
  • Here are three orders which are a reflection of the triple order of the celestial hierarchy.
  • Second, the four-faced angels are the Seraphim and are generally the top of the pile in hierarchies of angels.
  • The text itself is divided into nine sections, structured so that each section moves the reader through the celestial hierarchy of angels, from the lowest order to the highest.



Pronunciation: /hʌɪəˈrɑːkɪk/
Example sentences
  • To think and speak - seriously, one must acknowledge that the structure of the world has a hierarchic nature.
  • In a hierarchic society, members will necessarily change position and some mechanism must be in place for this to occur.
  • Furthermore, Scottish Calvinism was not an elite activity, it grew roots in the community quickly, and it nourished an egalitarian spirit that was at odds with what was, in every other respect, a deeply hierarchic society.


Example sentences
  • A major role in this stratification and hierarchization of time is certainly played, once again, by synchronization.
  • Indeed, the hierarchization of students by ability and skills is tied to a system that rewards and punishes, and structures success and failure.
  • For a few minutes, the screen is filled with images of man and nature but without any hierarchisation or human-centred identification.


(also hierarchise) verb
Example sentences
  • The Border also critiques American law but hierarchizes Mexico by advocating emigration to Mexico and espousing a covert rhetoric of Mexican nationalism.
  • In contrast to Western literature, American Indian literature does not focus on the resolution of the conflict, nor does it revolve around a central character or hero, which would tend to hierarchize events in the literature.
  • Our feminism recognizes the interconnectedness among race, class, gender, and sexuality and refuses to hierarchize oppression or to fragment identities.


Late Middle English: via Old French and medieval Latin from Greek hierarkhia, from hierarkhēs 'sacred ruler' (see hierarch). The earliest sense was 'system of orders of angels and heavenly beings'; the other senses date from the 17th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hier|archy

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