This word has a large number of usages.From military to mathematical.It means [in the French/Latin,]taken literally,
“rung of the ladder”
a level of command, authority, or rank:
After years of service, she is now in the upper echelon of city officials.
Synonyms: place, rank, hierarchy, authority, grade, office; row, tier, rung; social standing, position, class, standing.
a level of worthiness, achievement, or reputation:
studying hard to get into one of the top echelon colleges.
Synonyms: degree, position, tier.
Military. a formation of troops, ships, airplanes, etc., in which groups of soldiers or individual vehicles or craft are arranged in parallel lines, either with each line extending to the right of the one in front (right echelon) or with each line extending to the left of the one in front (left echelon) so that the whole presents the appearance of steps.
Military. one of the groups of a formation so arranged.
Archaic. any structure or group of structures arranged in a steplike form.
Also called echelon grating. Spectroscopy. a diffraction grating that is used in the resolution of fine structure lines and consists of a series of plates of equal thickness stacked in staircase fashion.
verb (used with or without object)
to form in an echelon.
Origin of echelon Expand
1790-18001790-1800; < French échelon, orig. rung of a ladder, Old French eschelon, equivalent to esch (i) ele ladder (< Latin scāla; see scale3) + -on noun suffix
Word story Expand
Echelon comes from the French échelon, a word whose literal meaning is “rung of a ladder.” Initially it was confined to military use, to refer to a step-like formation of troops.
Ironically, while echelon entered English in a military context, it was the first and second World Wars that extended the meaning to other, nonmilitary, sectors. During World War I, the term took on a more generalized sense of a “level” or “subdivision”; World War II broadened echelon’s usage to describe grades and ranks in professions outside the military.
At the same time, English speakers started using echelon to classify institutions or persons they held in high esteem by referring to them as part of the “upper” or “top” echelon. With this in mind, the phrase “social climber” conjures up the image of people who wish to ascend through the various ladder rungs of society until they reach the top.
Popular references Expand
—Row echelon form: In linear algebra, a simplified form of a matrix in which each non-zero row has more leading zeros than the previous row.
—ECHELON: Code name of a global surveillance system developed by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). It operates by intercepting and processing international communications transmitted via communications satellites.
—Third Echelon: A fictional sub-group of the NSA created by Tom Clancy in his Splinter Cell book series.
Related Quotations Expand
“Beyond [the city] were the suburban homes of laborers and low-echelon executives who had carved brass-knuckled niches for themselves in the medium-income bracket.“
—Irving E. Cox, Jr., The Cartels Jungle (1955)
“If a CEO wavers and shows signs of not being confident of which way he wants to go, it sends shudders from the top echelon all the way down the mountain.“
—D. A. Benton, How to think like a CEO (2000)
“[I]t is a monstrous leap from what [a master] can do to what the elite grandmasters (the Fischers and the Karpovs and the Kasparovs) can do, which is why even the top echelon of players often maintain a base of humility beneath their bluster.“
—Michael Weinreb, Game of Kings: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Geniuses Who Make Up America’s Top High School Chess Team (2007)
“By echelon we mean a formation in which the subdivisions are placed one behind another, extending beyond and unmasking one another either wholly or in part.“
—James Alfred Moss, Manual of Military Training (1914)
“[T]hey echeloned to the right around the hill, and the 1st Platoon fired into their flank for ten to fifteen minutes; however, they never slacked or broke formation.“
—William T. Bowers, The Line: Combat In Korea, January–February 1951, Volume 1 (2008)
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for echelon Expand
The echelon below were 18-year-old Olders, overseeing Babies and Tinies as young as 10 in the final rung.
A Tinderbox Waiting for a Match
August 10, 2011
I think Tina is the first woman who has gotten into that echelon.
TV’s Funniest New Moms
March 23, 2009
The view may look bright at the top GOP echelon, but that does not appear to be the attitude of the rank and file.
Why the GOP Should Panic
November 6, 2011
You will start at nightfall with three hundred men, whom you will echelon along the road.
Original Short Stories of Maupassant, Volume 1
Guy de Maupassant
The formation was in echelon by the right, with unequal intervals.
King Robert the Bruce
A. F. Murison
Another battalion had also suffered considerably from shell fire, and was posted in echelon on the left rear.
With a Highland Regiment in Mesopotamia
One of its Officer
The advance was made by the two brigades in squares marching in echelon.
The Egyptian campaigns, 1882 to 1885
General Hunter evidently conceived the rear of the echelon threatened from the direction of Kerreri.
The River War
Winston S. Churchill
We could negate the efforts of any echelon below the Eddorians themselves, it is true.
Edward Elmer Smith
All egress is stopped by the Allies’ echelon formation, except by Aleppo.
World’s War Events, Vol. II
British Dictionary definitions for echelon Expand
a level of command, responsibility, etc (esp in the phrase the upper echelons)
a formation in which units follow one another but are offset sufficiently to allow each unit a line of fire ahead
a group formed in this way
(physics) a type of diffraction grating used in spectroscopy consisting of a series of plates of equal thickness arranged stepwise with a constant offset
to assemble in echelon
C18: from French échelon, literally: rung of a ladder, from Old French eschiele ladder, from Latin scāla; see scale ³
Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for echelon Expand
1796, “step-like arrangement of troops,” from French échelon “level, echelon,” literally “rung of a ladder,” from Old French eschelon, from eschiele “ladder,” from Late Latin scala “stair, slope,” from Latin scalae (plural) “ladder, steps,” from PIE *skand- “to spring, leap” (see scan ). Sense of “level, subdivision” is from World War I.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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