Definition of echelon in US English:



  • 1A level or rank in an organization, a profession, or society.

    ‘the upper echelons of the business world’
    • ‘He is not liked among the upper echelons of British society either.’
    • ‘Further, this technology is not well known and therefore not fully exploited in the lower command echelons.’
    • ‘We must focus our attention to reach higher echelons by working hard with a joint effort.’
    • ‘They demand nothing less than equal access to the uppermost echelons of Catholicism.’
    • ‘After independence, Creoles quickly replaced Spaniards in the upper echelons of the new society.’
    • ‘It is to be expected that the invasion and conquest of these tribes will have caused severe disruption to the upper echelons of society.’
    • ‘The conspiracy extended to the uppermost echelons of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court.’
    • ‘And protracted booms promote the most aggressive and most bullish to the top echelons of power.’
    • ‘Likewise, those lower echelons were completely confounded with her existence.’
    • ‘Genuinely democratic consciousness has almost entirely disintegrated within the upper echelons of American society.’
    • ‘In practice, the pleasures and benefits of an improving culture could not be confined to society's upper echelons.’
    • ‘Buddhism made its first inroads into the upper echelons of Chinese society at this time, and many scholars met to discuss and compare the ideas of these two religions.’
    • ‘The media should be treated like family because they target the international community and keep higher echelons of command happy.’
    • ‘In this sense, as in many others, its 4,000 students mirror the upper echelons of French society.’
    • ‘The upper echelons of American society are hopelessly corrupted and morally decayed.’
    • ‘He had never said as much and he rarely spoke of his home and his family, but his behaviour, his manner of speech, suggested to her that he had been born into the upper echelons of society.’
    • ‘Many people assumed that I was masterminding a great shift at the top echelons of government.’
    • ‘Do you have what it takes to join the upper echelons of society?’
    level, rank, grade, step, rung, tier, stratum, plane, position, order, division, sector
    View synonyms
  • 2Military
    A formation of troops, ships, aircraft, or vehicles in parallel rows with the end of each row projecting further than the one in front.

    • ‘From the phalanx to the legion, from the tercio to l' ordre mixte, from the panzer division to fronts in echelon, conventional warfare has featured coherent formations, each trying to break the other.’
    • ‘As planned, we moved the formation to starboard echelon and tried to re-enter for the break.’
    • ‘As each flight started on the downwind leg the ships reformed in an echelon to the right and completed before-landing checklists.’
    • ‘The platoon in reserve moves to the right, assuming the bottom position in the new fight echelon.’
    • ‘The plan was to take all four Hummers overhead the field for a diamond fly-by, then depart and re-enter as a division in starboard echelon for the break.’
    1. 2.1often with modifier A part of a military force differentiated by position in battle or by function.
      ‘the rear echelon’
      • ‘The marines' assault echelon had three hours to offload before tidefall threatened to beach their ships.’
      • ‘Such facilities can be deployed in the strategic command and control echelons far from areas of combat operations.’
      • ‘The troops of the both echelons of the covering army remained in places of their permanent deployment; a small number of units and subunits were engaged in building fortifications close to the border.’
      • ‘For a project as large and complex as the Objective Force, every echelon needs a vision of what it must do, and these visions must be consistent across echelons.’
      • ‘Medical personnel still accompany the infantrymen, artillerymen, and engineers, known as alpha echelon, who execute a parachute assault to conduct and support airfield seizure.’
      • ‘He was assigned to a section attached to the rear echelon of the Scots Guards.’
      • ‘The 21st and 70th armies of the front operated in the second echelon.’
      • ‘Force Delta, which was the sea echelon of the second airborne battle group, left Germany on 26 July and closed on Beirut between 3 and 5 August.’
      • ‘Unlike the defense of Stalingrad, the fronts had a two-echelon operational disposition of forces where tank armies for the first time formed the second echelon.’
      • ‘Let us now consider in more detail defense operation in the tactical echelon.’
      • ‘As part of the in-theater structure required to support the deploying force, ISB echelons must deploy early and primarily by air.’
      • ‘Restoring the corps echelon became an urgent necessity as early as the counteroffensive off Moscow.’
      • ‘UA are the tactical warfighting echelons of the Objective Force and are similar to brigades and battalions.’
      • ‘The second echelon was comprised of an armored division and a corps army aviation brigade.’
      • ‘In some armies, tanks were attached to rifle divisions of not only the first but also the second echelon of the corps.’


[with object]Military
  • Arrange in an echelon formation.

    ‘the echeloning of fire teams’
    • ‘The Seleucids echeloned their right cavalry wing forward to gain tactical advantage.’
    • ‘At the midway point, the First Marine Division was echeloned from Hungnam to the northwest along a mountain road to the Chosin Reservoir, an important hydroelectric plant.’
    • ‘The brigade must echelon its assets to either provide observation of the enemy from acquisition to destruction, or to pass and receive targets indirectly from adjacent units as contact is lost.’
    • ‘A multi-tier fire delivery system is organized by echeloning the weapons assets on the slopes.’
    • ‘Reconnaissance efforts should be echeloned parallel to the supported unit.’


Late 18th century (in echelon (sense 2 of the noun)): from French échelon, from échelle ‘ladder’, from Latin scala.