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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.


(Arrangement in a series), noun categorization, chain, classification, collocation, gradation, grouping, order, order of succession, range, run, seriation, series, succession, system


(Persons in authority), noun authorities, bureaucracy, commanders, controllers, dictators, directors, government, heads, leadership power, management, managers, masters, officials, persons in power, powers, regency, regime, rulers, sovereignty
See also: class

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.

References in periodicals archive ?
Such a redefinition could suggest that the playwright is flattering his middle-class, primarily non-noble audience by demonstrating that the hierarchichal wielders of political power may be less capable than his hardworking audience members.
Can/should the reward challenge the existing hierarchichal order of society?
them" situation prevalent in London that was behind the passage of the sumptuary laws and the spate of works I considered earlier that described hierarchichal relationships in detail, Heywood's work not only shows how the gentry can profit by hard work, but more radically suggests a way for members of the problematic lower gentry/upper mercantile class to work together for the benefit of all, including the state.