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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 ?
Hierarchically nanostructured hematite hollow spheres assembled by nanosheets through a microwave-assisted solvothermal route exhibited superior photocatalytic activities in the degradation of salicylic acid [80].
This part of the Article very briefly examines the existing law of deference, which is supposed to be uniform across courts, and then, more importantly, shows how the rationales supporting deference actually support a hierarchically variable regime.
Following these steps, one or more conceptual trees are produced, which link together hierarchically the examined Wikipedia categories according to their respective hierarchical structure in WordNet.
For example, in a hierarchically ordered system like the mammal, the nervous (sub)system is dependent upon the respiratory and circular (sub)systems, primarily for a process of oxygen transfer to the nerve cells and brain cells of the nervous (sub)system.
She believes that the high percentage of keyword searching (in contrast to selections from hierarchically organized subject directories) undertaken by the students was due to the factual nature of the task they were given, with the assignment containing concrete keywords.
Second, identities give meaning to the self and are organized hierarchically from the most salient to the least salient.
Perhaps the local bishop could issue a badge or pin or something so the eucharistic ministers could know that the communicant was hierarchically certified.
Using advanced machine-learning techniques, with only a few examples it quickly learns by itself how to hierarchically classify documents in existing categories.
There was no hierarchically directed pastoral plan that acknowledged the diversity of religious practices of Italian migrants.
Here we arc in the twenty-first century, and a considerable part of humanity continues to live subjected to hierarchically dominated social structures of ancient origins, which perpetuate the worst sorts of inequities.
Detecting a new agent in large pooled samples would thus be repeated in smaller, localized pools that had been combined hierarchically to generate the larger pool (32).
Species derive from a common genus and, within a taxonomy, are hierarchically represented according to their essential characteristics and differences.

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