noun, plural hi·er·ar·chies.
- any system of persons or things ranked one above another.
- government by ecclesiastical rulers.
- the power or dominion of a hierarch.
- an organized body of ecclesiastical officials in successive ranks or orders: the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
- one of the three divisions of the angels, each made up of three orders, conceived as constituting a graded body.
- Also called celestial hierarchy. the collective body of angels.
- government by an elite group.
- Linguistics. the system of levels according to which a language is organized, as phonemic, morphemic, syntactic, or semantic.
noun plural -chies
- a system of persons or things arranged in a graded order
- a body of persons in holy orders organized into graded ranks
- the collective body of those so organized
- a series of ordered groupings within a system, such as the arrangement of plants and animals into classes, orders, families, etc
- linguistics maths a formal structure, usually represented by a diagram of connected nodes, with a single uppermost elementCompare ordering, heterarchy, tree (def. 6)
- government by an organized priesthood
mid-14c., from Old French ierarchie, from Medieval Latin hierarchia “ranked division of angels” (in the system of Dionysius the Areopagite), from Greek hierarkhia “rule of a high priest,” from hierarkhes “high priest, leader of sacred rites,” from ta hiera “the sacred rites” (neuter plural of hieros “sacred;” see ire) + arkhein “to lead, rule” (see archon). Sense of “ranked organization of persons or things” first recorded 1610s, initially of clergy, sense probably influenced by higher. Related: Hierarchal; hierarchical.