Word of the Day: echelon

Echelon formation
Echelon formation
Source: freshmanphysics.com

Word of the Day: echelon

Echelon (noun) ESH-uh-lahn


1 : a steplike arrangement (as of troops or airplanes)

2 a : one of a series of levels or grades in an organization or field of activity

b : a group of individuals at a particular level or grade in an organization


“And I think that … there are more conservatives in Hollywood than one would think in all echelons, even among the actors.” — Jon Voight, speaking on the Fox News Network, 9 Sept. 2016

“There were those in the upper echelons of network news who caught a bit of that altitude sickness and thought it was their job to massage the news on behalf of a greater good only they could see.” — Dalton Delan, The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts), 23 Sept. 2016

Did You Know?

Echelon is a useful word for anyone who is climbing the ladder of success. It traces back to scala, a Late Latin word meaning “ladder” that was the ancestor of the Old French eschelon, meaning “rung of a ladder.” Over time, the French word (which is échelon in Modern French) came to mean “step,” “grade,” or “level.” When it was first borrowed into English in the 18th century, echelon referred specifically to a steplike arrangement of troops, but it now usually refers to a level or category within an organization or group of people.

My Take

We’ve heard the term, the top echelon. From its use, we can figure out approximately what it means. Like the top .5% having the top 99% of all wealth in America, most people in this class consider themselves the top echelon in the country. Me, with several exceptions, I despise.

Looking beyond the normal meaning, I was astonished to note in

Drafting in Formation
Source: echeloncopy.com

its definition that there are other meanings of the term. One is the step-like arrangement as in airplanes. Think of airshows where military jets fly in tight formation over the airfield. It’s thrilling to watch, as they fly wingtip to wingtip, temerariously (yesterday’s word of the day) tempting disaster.

Stacked gears
Source: echeloncopy.com

Another meaning is the series of levels or grades within an organization or activity. Bike races are a perfect analogy to the term. You see them race in tight formation, drafting off each other, and allowing the team member to the rear take point so that the leader may fall back and rest a bit. Derailleur gears are another form of stacked levels.

I love learning the different contexts of these words of the day. Don’t you? Please share your comments. I’m sure we would all like to read them.

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Merriam-Webster Word of the DayBrought to you by Merriam-Webster, Word of the Day.

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