English edit

Alternative forms edit

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Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) climbing on to the roof of a house using a ladder (sense 1) to search for residents affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, August 2005
A woman's stocking with a ladder (sense 4) in it

Etymology edit

From Middle English ladder, laddre, from Old English hlǣder, from Proto-West Germanic *hlaidriju, from Proto-Germanic *hlaidrijō, from Proto-Indo-European *ḱlóydʰrom, from *ḱley- (to lean).

Compare Scots ledder, North Frisian ladder, Saterland Frisian Laadere, West Frisian ljedder, Dutch ladder, leer, German Leiter); also Old Irish clithar (hedge), Umbrian 𐌊𐌋𐌄𐌈𐌓𐌀𐌌 (kleθram, stretcher)). See lean, which is related to lid.

Pronunciation edit

(in accents with flapping)

Noun edit

ladder (plural ladders)

  1. A frame, usually portable, of wood, metal, or rope, used for ascent and descent, consisting of two side pieces to which are fastened rungs (cross strips or rounds acting as steps).
    • 1851, J[ames] Fenimore Cooper, “Chapter XXIII”, in The Pathfinder; or, The Inland Sea [...] Complete in One Volume. Revised and Corrected, with a New Introduction, Notes, &c., by the Author (The Leather-stocking Tales; III), rev. edition, New York, N.Y.: George P[almer] Putnam, 155 Broadway, →OCLC, page 411:
      The form of a man was seen to enter, and both the females rushed up the ladder, as if equally afraid of the consequences. The stranger secured the door, and first examining the lower room with great care, he cautiously ascended the ladder.
    • 2009, Albert Jackson, David Day, Popular Mechanics Complete Home How-To, rev. edition, New York, N.Y.: Hearst Books, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., →ISBN, page 31:
      Ladders are heavy and unwieldy. Handle them properly to avoid damaging property and to make sure you don't injure yourself. Carry a ladder upright, not slung across your shoulder. Hold the ladder vertically, bend your knees slightly, then rock the ladder back against your shoulder. Grip one rung lower down while you support the ladder at head height with your other hand, and then straighten your knees.
    • 2014, Linda O. Johnston, Lost under a Ladder, Woodbury, Minn.: Midnight Ink, Llewellyn Worldwide, →ISBN:
      And why wouldn't I just turn around, not take a chance on the bad luck of walking under a ladder? Because, beyond it, there was Pluckie. My little dog was leashed to a bush, lunging and barking. If the leash came loose, her lunge could send her tumbling down the mountainside.
  2. (figuratively) A series of stages by which one progresses to a better position.
    • 2011 January 8, Paul Fletcher, “Stevenage 3 – 1 Newcastle”, in BBC Sport[1], archived from the original on 5 March 2016:
      Newcastle had won both their previous fixtures in 2011 but were terribly disappointing at Broadhall Way against opponents 73 places below them in the footballing ladder.
  3. (figuratively) The hierarchy or ranking system within an organization, such as the corporate ladder.
    • 2010, Jody Heymann, Magda Barrera, Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder: Creating Value by Investing in Your Workforce, Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press, →ISBN, page 6:
      Many publicly held companies do have good working conditions, but they often employ mostly high-wage workers or offer different levels of working conditions and benefits to management employees than to workers at the bottom of the ladder.
  4. (chiefly Britain) A length of unravelled fabric in a knitted garment, especially in nylon stockings; a run.
    • 1875, Report of the Committee of Council on Education (England and Wales); with Appendix. 1874–75. Report, and Parts I. to IV. of Appendix. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty. (Reports from Commissioners, Inspectors, and Others: Twenty-seven Volumes; XXIV), volume X (Education), London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, printers to the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, for Her Majesty's Stationery Office, →OCLC, page 54:
      Proposed Standard of Needlework to be required from Pupil-teachers at the Yearly Visits of Her Majesty's Inspectors. [] Darning Stockings.—To show a hole darned, and a thin place "run" (or strengthened), and a ladder properly taken up in a coarse worsted stocking.
    • 2008, Åsa Larsson, translated by Marlaine Delargy, The Black Path, New York, N.Y.: Bantam Dell, →ISBN:
      You've got a huge ladder in your stockings. I've got a spare pair in my bag, come to the Ladies and you can change.
  5. In the game of go, a sequence of moves following a zigzag pattern and ultimately leading to the capture of the attacked stones.
    • 2003, Peter Shotwell, Go! More Than a Game, Boston, Mass.: Tuttle Publishing, →ISBN:
      The most dramatic introduction to the idea of how stones relate to each other over distance is how players react when a ladder (shicho, "she-ko"[sic] in Japanese) [シチョウ (shichō)] develops. [] Ouch! This is finding out about the ladder, which is called that because of the steplike shape that the defending stones are forced into.

Usage notes edit

For stockings touted as resistant to ladders (unraveling), the phrase “ladder resist” is used in the UK. The American equivalent is “run resistant”.

Synonyms edit

  • (frame for ascent and descent): stepladder
  • (unravelled fabric): run (primarily US)

Derived terms edit

Translations edit

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Verb edit

ladder (third-person singular simple present ladders, present participle laddering, simple past and past participle laddered)

  1. To arrange or form into a shape of a ladder.
    • 1984, Stephen King, Peter Straub, The Talisman, New York, N.Y.: Viking Press/G. P. Putnam's Sons, →ISBN:
      And employing the innate gift for mimicry he'd always had – a gift which had made his father roar with laughter even when he was tired and feeling down – Jack 'did' Morgan Sloat. Age fell into his face as he laddered his brow the way Uncle Morgan's brow laddered into lines when he was pissed off about something.
    • 1999, Lisbet Koerner, Linnaeus: Nature and Nation, Cambridge, Mass., London: Harvard University Press, →ISBN, page 15:
      By means of repeated bifurcations, [Carl] Linnaeus provided a five-tier botanic hierarchy. He laddered the plant kingdom downward from classes to orders, genera, species, and varieties.
    • 2001, Frankie Y. Bailey, A Dead Man's Honor, Johnson City, Tenn.: Silver Dagger Mysteries, The Overmountain Press, →ISBN, page 70:
      I sat down, and he left his perch on the edge of the table and pulled out another chair for himself. We sat facing each other. He laddered his fingers under his chin.
  2. (chiefly firefighting) To ascend (a building, a wall, etc.) using a ladder.
    • 1896, Chambers's Journal, Edinburgh, London: W. & R. Chambers, →OCLC, page 367:
      The Rochdale climber spoken of once fell 70 feet from a mill at Linfitts, owing to an accident while he was laddering. He was terribly hurt, but recovered, and still carries on his trade with unshaken nerve.
    • 1998, John Norman, Fire Officer's Handbook of Tactics, 2nd edition, Saddle Brook, N.J.: Fire Engineering, →ISBN, page 164:
      A good working knowledge of the ladder parts, how they work, their capacities, and proper usage are a must before anyone is sent out to ladder a building.
    • 2007, Richard Preston, “Detonation Zone”, in The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring, New York, N.Y.: Random House, →ISBN:
      He was barefoot, but he was wearing his climbing harness and was attached to Telperion with a rope. He unclipped the rope, detaching himself from the tree. He stepped out onto a branch and free-climbed up to Cordaro's hammock. [] He laddered his way barefoot to the very top of Telperion. He didn't use a rope, and he felt that any hominid with any dexterity could have pulled off the climb.
  3. Of a knitted garment: to develop a ladder as a result of a broken thread.
    Oh damn it, I've laddered my tights!
    • 1993, Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong, London: Hutchinson, ISBN 978-0-09-177373-1; republished as Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War, New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books, June 1997, ISBN 978-0-679-77681-9, page 254:
      He slid his hand up her skirt and murmured in her ear. / "Robert, I've just got dressed. Stop it." [] / He laddered her stocking and smudged her lipstick, but she had time to repair the damage before they went out.
    • 1994, Judith Clarke, “Tights”, in Friend of My Heart, St. Lucia, Qld.: University of Queensland Press, →ISBN, pages 35–36:
      "Oh, I see," murmured Maddie. She didn't see, though. Not really. Why cry over a ladder in your tights? [] "They must have been defective," she said. / "No, they weren't! It's me who's defective! I'm too fat to wear Mediums any more. That's why they ladder. They ladder the moment I put them on, because my legs are too fat. Everything is too fat!" Joanna shot her mother a baleful glance that brimmed with threat.
    • 2004, Susan Sallis, The Pumpkin Coach, London: Corgi Books, →ISBN, page 106:
      She caught her mother's eye and said quickly, 'I wondered why your cardigan was laddering.' She looked around the kitchen. 'It is awfully cramped in here. Perhaps if we moved the table against the wall it would be better.' She found herself almost believing that Val and Mother had torn their clothes on the stove.
  4. (UK, naval slang) To close in on a target with successive salvos, increasing or decreasing the shot range as necessary.
    • 2007, Peter Smith, Naval Warfare in the English Channel: 1939-1945, page 134:
      For eighteen minutes Revenge pounded the dockyard area at an average range of 15,700 yards, spreading for line and laddering for range to a prearranged plan to cover the whole target area.
    • 2014, Norman Friedman, Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns & Gunnery:
      Laddering made it possible to get a few hits on a fast-moving, often manoeuvring, target.
  5. (UK, law enforcement, of a police officer) To corruptly coerce a convicted offender to admit to offences to be taken into consideration which they do not actually believe they committed, as a way to artificially increase the rate of solved crimes.

Anagrams edit

Dutch edit

Alternative forms edit

Etymology edit

From Middle Dutch ladere, from Old Frisian hladder, hledder, hleder, hlērde, from Proto-West Germanic *hlaidriju, from Proto-Germanic *hlaidrijō.

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit

ladder f (plural ladders, diminutive laddertje n)

  1. A ladder.
  2. (clothing) A ladder, a run (length of unravelled fabric).

Meronyms edit

Derived terms edit

Descendants edit

  • Afrikaans: leer
    • Sotho: lere
    • Xhosa: ileli

Middle English edit

Noun edit


  1. Alternative form of laddre