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Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) climbing on to the roof of a house using a ladder (sense 1) to search for residents affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, August 2005
A woman's stocking with a ladder (sense 3) in it

Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English laddere, laddre, from Old English hlǣder, from Proto-Germanic *hlaidrijō (compare Scots ledder, North Frisian ladder, Saterland Frisian Laadere, West Frisian ljedder, Dutch ladder, leer, German Leiter), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱleytro (compare Old Irish clithar ‎(hedge), Umbrian [script needed] ‎(kletram, stretcher)), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱley- ‎(to lean). See lean, which is related to lid.



ladder ‎(plural ladders)

  1. A frame, usually portable, of wood, metal, or rope, used for ascent and descent, consisting of two side pieces to which are fastened rungs (cross strips or rounds acting as steps).
  2. (figuratively) A series of stages by which one progresses to a better position.
    • 2011 January 8, Paul Fletcher, “Stevenage 3 - 1 Newcastle”, in BBC[1]:
      Newcastle had won both their previous fixtures in 2011 but were terribly disappointing at Broadhall Way against opponents 73 places below them in the footballing ladder.
    1. The hierarchy or ranking system within an organization, such as the corporate ladder.
  3. (chiefly Britain) A length of unravelled fabric in a knitted garment, especially in nylon stockings; a run.
  4. In the game of go, a sequence of moves following a zigzag pattern and ultimately leading to the capture of the attacked stones.

Usage notes[edit]

For stockings touted as resistant to ladders, the phrase “ladder resist” is used in the UK. The American equivalent is “run resistant”.


  • (frame for ascent and descent): stepladder
  • (unravelled fabric): run (primarily US)

Derived terms[edit]



ladder ‎(third-person singular simple present ladders, present participle laddering, simple past and past participle laddered)

  1. (firefighting) To ascend a building or wall using a ladder.
    • 1998, John Norman, Fire Officer's Handbook of Tactics,[2] ISBN 0912212721, page 164,
      A good working knowledge of the ladder parts, how they work, their capacities, and proper usage are a must before anyone is sent out to ladder a building.
  2. (of a knitted garment) To develop a ladder as a result of a broken thread.
    Oh damn it, I've laddered my tights!




Hyphenation: lad‧der


ladder f, m ‎(plural ladders, diminutive laddertje n)

  1. ladder

Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]