Webster 1913 Edition



, AS.
; akin to OFries.
, OHG.
, G.
, and from the root of E.
, v. √40. See
, and cf.
A frame usually portable, of wood, metal, or rope, for ascent and descent, consisting of two side pieces to which are fastened cross strips or rounds forming steps.
Some the engines play,
And some, more bold, mount
to the fire.
Lowliness is young ambition’s
Fish ladder
See under
Ladder beetle
an American leaf beetle (
Chrysomela scalaris
). The elytra are silvery white, striped and spotted with green; the under wings are rose-colored. It feeds upon the linden tree.
Ladder handle
an iron rail at the side of a vertical fixed ladder, to grasp with the hand in climbing.
Ladder shell
a spiral marine shell of the genus
. See

Webster 1828 Edition



, n.
A frame of wood, consisting of two side pieces, connected by rounds inserted in them at suitable distances, and thus forming steps, by which persons may ascend a building, &c.
That by which a person ascends or rises; means of ascending; as a ladder made of cords.
Lowliness is young ambition's ladder.
Gradual rise; elevation.
Mounting fast towards the top of the ladder ecclesiastical.

Definition 2023




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

Alternative forms


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 27163395, 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 978-1-58816-803-0, 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 978-0-7387-4077-5:
      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, 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 978-1-4221-2311-9, 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 857987960, 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; Marlaine Delargy, transl., The Black Path, New York, N.Y.: Bantam Dell, ISBN 978-0-385-34101-1:
      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 978-0-8048-3475-9:
      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, /ɕit͡ɕoː/)] 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

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


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

Derived terms



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 978-0-670-69199-9:
      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 978-0-674-09745-2, 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 978-1-57072-170-0, 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 846681048, 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 978-0-912212-72-2, 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 978-1-4000-6489-2:
      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 978-0-7022-2699-1, 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 978-0-593-05266-2, 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.




  • IPA(key): /ˈlɑ.dər/

Hyphenation: lad‧der


ladder f (plural ladders, diminutive laddertje n)

  1. ladder

Derived terms

See also