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A group of people who form an ascending chain of power or authority.

Officers in a government, for example, form an escalating series of ranks or degrees of power, with each rank subject to the authority of the one on the next level above. In a majority of hierarchical arrangements, there are a larger number of people at the bottom than at the top.

Originally, the term was used to mean government by a body of priests. Currently, a hierarchy is used to denote any body of individuals arranged or classified according to capacity, authority, position, or rank.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

HIERARCHY, eccl. law. A hierarchy signified, originally, power of the priest; for in the beginning of societies, the priests were entrusted with all the power but, among the priests themselves, there were different degrees of power and authority, at the summit of which was the sovereign pontiff, and this was called the hierarchy. Now it signifies, not so much the power of the priests as the border of power.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
A multifaceted academic self-concept: Its heirarchical structure and its relation to academic achievement.
Fast multilevel heirarchical routing table using content-addressable memory.
This process appears to have been linked in interesting and complex ways to the reification of hapu as 'traditional' sub-tribal groups within a standardised heirarchical arrangement of iwi (tribe) hapu (sub-tribe) and whanau (extended family) in the twentieth century.
In the typical professional and the heirarchical models, senior management delegates to corporate HR staff the responsibility for designing and implementing new HR programs.
Different protocols are required to test these various heirarchical levels of the trade-off.
A complete heirarchical schema for the American oyster distributed along the east coast of the United States is: Phylum: Mollusca Class: Bivalvia Order: Pteriodea Family: Ostreidae Genus: Crassostrea Species: virginica