Word of the Day



1. a piece of equipment for reaching high places that consists of two long pieces of wood or metal joined by smaller pieces called rungs

2. a system that has different levels through which you can progress

3. BRITISH a long thin hole in stockings or tights. The American word is run.

Origin and usage

Used as a noun, the word ladder comes from the Old English word, ‘hlæder’ meaning ‘steps’, which derives from the Old German ‘leitara’ and the Middle Dutch ‘ledere’. The modern term ladder has evolved from these words to refer to a structure with steps or rungs.


A ladder is a piece of equipment made from rope, metal or wood. It has two lengths either side which are joined by rungs or bars in the middle. A ladder is usually placed vertically against a wall or tall object to provide a method of climbing up and down. Painters, window cleaners and roofers often use ladders to reach higher positions safely. A ladder can also refer to something which looks like a ladder, such as a long hole in a pair of stockings. Finally, in business or financial terms, a ladder is also used to indicate success has been achieved, and a top lawyer, doctor or businessperson can be said to have climbed the career ladder.

The notion that walking under a ladder leads to bad luck originated in the 18th century. Some people believe the superstition began because a ladder propped against a wall forms a triangle which reflects the Christian Trinity and that walking under a ladder breaks this. A more pragmatic explanation would be that people want to avoid objects being accidentally dropped on them by those using the ladder.


“Only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career.”

(Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)


steps, scale

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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