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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 ?
From the point of view of style, these sites were presented as equal, but the guidebooks and contemporary reactions distinguished sharply between the exotic and the familiar, the domestic and the foreign, the Western and the Eastern, now allowing influence and analogy, now moralizing and hierarchizing.
The theoretical and empirical demonstration of this position would have been more rigorous had it distinguished between the notion of cultures (which refers to complex symbolic systems) and identity discourses (second order), which view these same cultures in objectivizing, classificatory, and hierarchizing terms.
Is aesthetics an essentially democratic or an essentially hierarchizing discourse?
47) He refuses to cut a hierarchizing division between sound and sense.
In reciting this list of syntagms, we find ourselves in the paradigmatic space of pure poetry that transcends the chronologizing and hierarchizing impulse of the literary historian.
Minority Report marries Locke's law, which made all men sovereign and corruptible, to Bentham's discipline, which goes about maximizing human potential by hierarchizing it.