Hierarchy is a system of organization in which people or things are ranked in order of importance or authority. It is a structure of power that establishes a chain of command, with those at the top possessing more authority and control than those lower down. Hierarchy can exist in various contexts, including in society, organizations, and relationships.


US English

UK English

Part of Speech



Ranking, pecking order, chain of command, order of precedence, power structure


Equality, flat organization, democracy, egalitarianism

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun hierarchy, hierarchies
Verb None
Adjective hierarchical
Adverb hierarchically

Example Sentences

  • In the military, there is a strict hierarchy that determines the chain of command and authority.

  • The company’s hierarchy was top-heavy, with most of the power and decision-making authority concentrated at the executive level.

  • The feudal system in medieval Europe was characterized by a rigid hierarchy, with the king at the top and the peasants at the bottom.

  • The caste system in India is a hierarchy that assigns people to specific social classes based on their birth and occupation.


The term “hierarchy” comes from the Greek words “hieros,” meaning sacred, and “arkhein,” meaning to rule. It implies a system of control or governance, with some individuals or groups having more power and influence than others. Hierarchy is often associated with bureaucracy, which is a system of administration that relies on a hierarchical structure to delegate authority and responsibilities.

There are no specific prefixes, suffixes, or variations of the word “hierarchy” that are commonly used. However, the root “hieros” suggests that the phenomenon is related to the sacred or divine. In some religious contexts, hierarchy refers to the order of spiritual authority or importance, with higher-ranking individuals having more direct access to the divine.

Hierarchy can be beneficial in some situations, as it provides a clear structure of authority and accountability. However, it can also be problematic, as those at the top may abuse their power or become disconnected from those lower down. In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards flatter organizational structures, which prioritize collaboration and equality over hierarchy and bureaucracy.

Overall, hierarchy is a fundamental aspect of human society and has played a crucial role in shaping our social, political, and economic systems. By understanding how hierarchy works and its potential benefits and drawbacks, we can work towards creating more just and equitable societies.