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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 ?
Paul Trollope remains the overwhelming favourite with the bookmakers, and is understood to be one of a number of figures from across the game to be interviewed by the Bluebirds' hierachy over the weekend.
The club's hierachy has been giving conflicting messages about ticketing recently.
The decision of who replaces Sherwood will determine whether the hierachy were right to sack him.
PLAYER OF THE DAY To take nine wickets on a turning pitch was some achievement from Durham seamer Rushworth, who continues to take wickets - and continues to be ignored by the England hierachy? He will be more disappointed that his efforts were not in a winning cause?
The 48-year-old has not been ruled out by the Magpies with the club hierachy well aware of the St Etienne chief's work in Ligue 1.
And in an interview he confirmed that the IRA hierachy in Dublin knew all along that the six Irishmen arrested for the explosions were innocent "from the get go, from the very start."
"After many successful seasons playing in the hierachy of Nuneaton and Coventry football, the football section was dissolved and switched to Stockingford AA where Terry was an active committee member.
I have not once been asked by a Priest or the hierachy of the various Catholic Churches I have been part of over the last 16 years, to join a conversion programme or come over to the Catholic Church.
But even as England celebrates a decade of sexual parity, women can still face obstacles from within the Church hierachy. An example,cited recently in a church newsletter, is that when married couples are both ordained,preference in allocating parishes is often given to the man, leaving the woman struggling to find a nearby flock in need of leadership.
While McCarthy has been out, he's also had to cope with the insecurity of knowing a four year contract, which was all but waiting for his signature, has been put on ice while the Blues hierachy wait to see if he can make a complete recovery.
social hierachy has been comparatively fast and easy.