1. having no part higher than another; having a flat or even surface.
  2. being in a plane parallel to the plane of the horizon; horizontal.
  3. equal, as one thing with another or two or more things with one another.
  4. even, equable, or uniform.
  5. filled to a height even with the rim of a container: a level teaspoon of salt.
  6. mentally well-balanced; sensible; rational: to keep a level head in a crisis.


  1. a device used for determining or adjusting something to a horizontal surface.
  2. Surveying.
    1. Also called surveyor’s instrument for observing levels, having a sighting device, usually telescopic, and capable of being made precisely horizontal.
    2. an observation made with this instrument.
    3. spirit level.
  3. an imaginary line or surface everywhere at right angles to the plumb line.
  4. the horizontal line or plane in which anything is situated, with regard to its elevation.
  5. a horizontal position or condition.
  6. an extent of land approximately horizontal and unbroken by irregularities.
  7. a level or flat surface.
  8. a position with respect to a given or specified height: The water rose to a level of 30 feet.
  9. a position or plane in a graded scale of values; status; rank: His acting was on the level of an amateur. They associated only with those on their own economic level.
  10. an extent, measure, or degree of intensity, achievement, etc.: a high level of sound; an average level of writing skill.
  11. Linguistics. a major subdivision of linguistic structure, as phonology, morphology, or syntax, often viewed as hierarchically ordered.Compare component(def 6a), stratum(def 8).
  12. Mining. the interconnected horizontal mine workings at a particular elevation or depth: There had been a cave-in on the 1500-foot level.

verb (used with object), lev·eled, lev·el·ing or (especially British) lev·elled, lev·el·ling.

  1. to make (a surface) level, even, or flat: to level ground before building.
  2. to raise or lower to a particular level or position; to make horizontal.
  3. to bring (something) to the level of the ground: They leveled the trees to make way for the new highway.
  4. Informal. to knock down (a person): He leveled his opponent with one blow.
  5. to make equal, as in status or condition.
  6. to make even or uniform, as coloring.
  7. Historical Linguistics. (of the alternative forms of a paradigm) to reduce in number or regularize: Old English “him” (dative) and “hine” (accusative) have been leveled to Modern English “him.”
  8. to aim or point (a weapon, criticism, etc.) at a mark or objective: He leveled his criticism at the college as a whole.
  9. Surveying. to find the relative elevation of different points in (land), as with a level.

verb (used without object), lev·eled, lev·el·ing or (especially British) lev·elled, lev·el·ling.

  1. to bring things or persons to a common level.
  2. to aim a weapon, criticism, etc., at a mark or objective.
  3. Surveying.
    1. to take a level.
    2. to use a leveling instrument.
  4. to speak truthfully and openly (often followed by with): You’re not leveling with me about your trip to Chicago.
  5. Obsolete. to direct the mind, purpose, etc., at something.


  1. Obsolete. in a level, direct, or even way or line.

Verb Phrases

  1. level off,
    1. maintain a constant altitude after a climb or descent.
    2. to become stable; reach a constant or limit.
    3. to make even or smooth.
  1. find one’s (own) level, to attain the place or position merited by one’s abilities or achievements: He finally found his level as one of the directors of the firm.
  2. one’s level best, one’s very best; one’s utmost: We tried our level best to get here on time.
  3. on the level, Informal. honest; sincere; reliable: Is this information on the level?


  1. on a horizontal plane
  2. having a surface of completely equal height
  3. being of the same height as something else
  4. (of quantities to be measured, as in recipes) even with the top of the cup, spoon, etc
  5. equal to or even with (something or someone else)
  6. not having or showing inconsistency or irregularities
  7. Also: level-headed even-tempered; steady

verb -els, -elling or -elled or US -els, -eling or -eled

  1. (tr sometimes foll by off) to make (a surface) horizontal, level, or even
  2. to make (two or more people or things) equal, as in position or status
  3. (tr) to raze to the ground
  4. (tr) to knock (a person) down by or as if by a blow
  5. (tr) to direct (a gaze, criticism, etc) emphatically at someone
  6. (intr often foll by with) informal to be straightforward and frank
  7. (intr; foll by off or out) to manoeuvre an aircraft into a horizontal flight path after a dive, climb, or glide
  8. (often foll by at) to aim (a weapon) horizontally
  9. surveying to determine the elevation of a section of (land), sighting through a levelling instrument to a staff at successive pairs or points


  1. a horizontal datum line or plane
  2. a device, such as a spirit level, for determining whether a surface is horizontal
  3. a surveying instrument consisting basically of a telescope with a spirit level attached, used for measuring relative heights of landSee Abney level, dumpy level
  4. a reading of the difference in elevation of two points taken with such an instrument
  5. position or status in a scale of values
  6. amount or degree of progress; stage
  7. a specified vertical position; altitude
  8. a horizontal line or plane with respect to which measurement of elevation is basedsea level
  9. a flat even surface or area of land
  10. a horizontal passage or drift in a mine
  11. any of the successive layers of material that have been deposited with the passage of time to build up and raise the height of the land surface
  12. physics the ratio of the magnitude of a physical quantity to an arbitrary magnitudesound-pressure level
  13. do one’s level best to make every possible effort; try one’s utmost
  14. find one’s level to find one’s most suitable place socially, professionally, etc
  15. on a level on the same horizontal plane as another
  16. on the level informal sincere, honest, or genuine

early 15c., from level (n.). To do one’s level best is from 1851.


mid-15c., “to make level,” from level (n.). From c.1600 as “to bring to a level;” 1958 as “to cease increasing.” Meaning “to aim a gun” is late 15c. Slang sense of “tell the truth” is from 1920. To level up “to rise” is attested by 1863.

A word here as to the misconception labored under by our English neighbor; he evidently does not understand the American manner of doing things. We never level down in this country; we are always at work on the up grade. “Level up! Level up!” is the motto of the American people. [James E. Garretson, “Professional Education,” in “The Dental Cosmos,” Philadelphia, 1865]

To level off “cease rising or falling” is from 1920, originally in aviation.


mid-14c., “tool to indicate a horizontal line,” from Old French livel “a level” (13c.), ultimately from Latin libella “a balance, level,” diminutive of libra “balance, scale, unit of weight,” from PIE *lithra. Cognate Spanish nivel, Modern French niveau are from the same source but altered by dissimilation. Meaning “horizontality” is from c.1400. Meaning “position as marked by a horizontal line” is from 1530s. Phrase on the level “fair, honest” is from 1872; earlier it meant “moderate, without great ambition” (1790).


  1. Relative position or rank on a graded scale, such as mental or emotional development.
  2. A relative degree, as of intensity or concentration.

In addition to the idioms beginning with level

  • level best
  • level off
  • level with someone

also see:

  • do one’s (level) best
  • on the level
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