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From Middle English ierarchie, jerarchie, from Old French ierarchie, jerarchie, from Late Latin ierarchia, from Latin hierarchia, from Ancient Greek ἱεραρχία (hierarkhía, rule of a high priest), from ἱεράρχης (hierárkhēs, high priest), from ἱερός (hierós, holy) + ἄρχω (árkhō, I rule). The H was re-added c. 1500 due to influence from Classical Latin.


  • IPA(key): /ˈhaɪ.ə.ɹɑː(ɹ).ki/, /ˈhaɪ.ɹɑː(ɹ).ki/
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hierarchy (plural hierarchies)

  1. A body of authoritative officials organized in nested ranks.
    • 2013 August 10, Lexington, “Keeping the mighty honest”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8848:
      The [Washington] Post's proprietor through those turbulent [Watergate] days, Katharine Graham, held a double place in Washington’s hierarchy: at once regal Georgetown hostess and scrappy newshound, ready to hold the establishment to account.
  2. A social, religious, economic or political system or organization in which people or groups of people are ranked with some superior to others based on their status, authority or some other trait.
  3. Any group of objects ranked so that every one but the topmost is subordinate to a specified one above it.

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