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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 ?
Representations of and by bodies were signals that placed a being within a heirarchy stretching from beasts to the gods.
that paid attention to the outcomes including the heirarchy system of the
schools through the conscious or unconscious acceptance of a racial heirarchy, where whites are consistently ranked above People of Color.
Tristram believes the system is geared towards the wrong end of the disposal heirarchy. Instead of landfill sites, or ploughing food into the ground, or even anaerobic digesters which generate energy from waste, we should be recycling surplus food for human consumption.
Clearly, certain areas of personnel services (such as postal operations and human resources) will benefit from being part of the command and control heirarchy of the operational sustainment community, but other areas (such as casualty operations, personnel accounting, strength reporting, and personnel management) will not benefit from being forced into a sustainment hierarchy.
Daycare centers were not that prevalent in the early 1970s, but my developing feminism led me to believe they were crucial if society was to move beyond the nuclear family and its smothering heirarchy. But I was astonished at how undervalued and underpaid the entirely female staff was, especially for work that was so stressful and so important ...
We need to ensure that our parliament does not deliver massive majorities to one heirarchy.
The Liverpool heirarchy are only prepared to do business if Villa slash a third off their Barry price-tag.
CMIO's opinions are valuable because other executives within the hospital heirarchy do not duplicate their expertise.
Aside from the obvious strategic question (are people inspired to put public money into a system when you tell them it sucks?), this line of argument helps fuel a national trend to intensify the industry's racial heirarchy by tying pay rates to subjective "quality" designations.
It's an absolute disgrace and the heirarchy at Celtic should restrict Man Utd to the very least numb er of tickets the rules will allow.