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Definitions of Hierarchy

(noun) A system of ranking and uneven power distribution in which an individual or group resides within a culture, organization, or society.

Examples of Hierarchy

Hierarchy Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: hi·er·ar·chy

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /hIE-uhr-rahr-kee/
  • British English – /hIE-uh-rah-kee/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈhaɪˌrɑrki/
  • British English – /ˈhʌɪərɑːki/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: hierarchies
  • As societies became more complex, increasingly multi-layered hierarchies develop to control people and resources.
  • Also called:
    • class structure
    • echelon
    • power structure
    • ranking
    • social hierarchy
    • social ladder
    • social pyramid
    • status hierarchy
  • Informally called pecking order.
  • Sociologists study stratification to understand (adjective) hierarchic or (adjective) hierarchical power structures.

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Cite the Definition of Hierarchy

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “hierarchy.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 24, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/hierarchy/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

hierarchy. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/hierarchy/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “hierarchy.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 24, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/hierarchy/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“hierarchy.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 24 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/hierarchy/>.