Definition of ladder in English:



  • 1A piece of equipment consisting of a series of bars or steps between two upright lengths of wood, metal, or rope, used for climbing up or down something.

    • ‘Resting there, miraculously, was a ladder, the rusting metal kind, like the fire escapes on apartments.’
    • ‘This leads to a series of climbs facilitated by aluminium ladders and fixed ropes.’
    • ‘Raul turned away angrily, climbing back up the ladder to middle deck.’
    • ‘They spent more than 11 hours containing the blaze and used a turntable ladder to douse it from above.’
    • ‘Leaves in different parts of the canopy were accessed with ladders, climbing ropes, and a hydraulic lift, to facilitate photosynthetic measurements with hand-held instruments.’
    • ‘The wooden ladder led the young men to an attic.’
    • ‘The time it takes to climb a rope or scale a ladder leaves soldiers highly vulnerable to attack.’
    • ‘You run around climbing ladders, shimmying across ropes and running from one platform to another, collecting gems while avoiding the bad guys.’
    • ‘I need a tall step ladder to change a light bulb.’
    • ‘As the engines stopped, the firefighters cleared my pilot to shut down and to lower the boarding ladder.’
    • ‘He had brought all the necessary tools for scaling a wall: ladders, ropes, even a sort of high platform they could wheel next to the wall.’
    • ‘When your foot was on the roof, you had to transfer your weight from the ladder to the roof and then step off the ladder fully.’
    • ‘A set of wooden ladders led up to the nearest entrance to the cave system.’
    • ‘There are fixed ropes, ladders and even rudimentary staircases cut into the hard snow, leading to the main route being dubbed a ‘yak track’.’
    • ‘Climbing wire rope ladders in a wet or dry suit requires good technique and plenty of stamina.’
    • ‘Entrance for the others by means of climbing ropes or ladders over the wall would be possible, but they needed a quick exit route, and hoped to be carrying Grenwald, bound and gagged as they left.’
    • ‘Vincent climbed down the rusty fire escape ladder and leapt down to the unpaved cobblestone street below.’
    • ‘The hastily lowered ladder leaned at the back, looking as though it would come crashing down at any moment.’
    • ‘We climbed the old wooden ladder to the loft.’
    • ‘And that forced me to get even higher up on the rickety ladder.’
    1. 1.1A series of ascending stages by which someone or something may progress.
      ‘employees on their way up the career ladder’
      • ‘As she climbs the corporate ladder to the top, Kate also grows to love her gentleman caller.’
      • ‘Rather than fixing a position on a hierarchical socio-economic ladder, consumerism establishes lateral connections that affirm middle-class affiliation.’
      • ‘Often when an executive takes that last step up the ladder and becomes chairman of a company, the view from the top is strewn with things that need to be cleaned up.’
      • ‘Muslims have begun to ascend the ladder in politics, business and the media.’
      • ‘They needed to prove that women were just as determined as men to ascend the corporate ladder.’
      • ‘Murdock is taking on an expanded role of football development manager, while Wood takes his first step on the coaching ladder and will be assisted by Paul Penrice and Martin Oglanby.’
      • ‘Job loss is increasingly worse for you the higher up the skill ladder you are.’
      • ‘The mass media and the rest of corporate America are enthralled with professionals scaling career ladders to new heights.’
      • ‘They've followed the rules, been generously rewarded, and climbed society's ladder of success.’
      • ‘The idea behind the Ka was ingenious, offering the first step on the Ford ladder for many young drivers.’
      • ‘By the beginning of the twentieth century Catholic Irish Americans were clearly ascending the occupational ladder.’
      • ‘Latham has just added a few more rungs to his ladder of political opportunity.’
      • ‘This email was from an inspector, who I think is higher up the police ladder than an officer.’
      • ‘An increasing number of parents are helping their children get on the property ladder.’
      • ‘Their only chance to get a foot on the property ladder is in places like Carlow.’
      • ‘In the mid-1990s, the city began climbing up the evolutionary ladder.’
      • ‘This process of climbing up the hierarchical ladder can go on indefinitely, until the member reaches a position where he or she is incompetent.’
      • ‘Rather than being ladders of success, our lives are more like rivers.’
      • ‘Barrie Weatherall takes another step up the ladder as he and his York company receive a £10,000 Smart Micro Award.’
      • ‘Excluded from society, essentially cut out of her aunt's will, Lily descends the social ladder.’
      hierarchy, scale, set of stages, stratification, pecking order, grading, ranking, spectrum
      View synonyms
  • 2British A vertical strip of unravelled fabric in tights or stockings.

    ‘one of Sally's stockings developed a ladder’
    • ‘She's a social climber with ladders in her stockings but a good heart.’
    • ‘In our house, a clear-out involves binning the odd pair of tights with more ladders than Bob The Builder, or removing a bunch of long-dead flowers from a vase.’
    • ‘The list is as long as a ladder in a pair of tights.’
    • ‘By the time I've yanked on my stockings and managed to rip a ladder in them, I know it's going to be a brilliant day.’
    • ‘They had to be mended by hand or taken to one of shops in the city where a young woman repaired ladders in silk stockings using a special stand and hook.’


  • (with reference to tights or stockings) develop or cause to develop a ladder.

    ‘her tights were always laddered’
    [no object] ‘they laddered the minute I put them on’


Old English hlǣd(d)er, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch leer and German Leiter.