Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

A hierarchy is an organizational structure in which items are ranked according to levels of importance. Most governments, corporations and organized religions are hierarchical.

In a computing context, there are various types of hierarchical systems. Most file systems, for example, are based on a hierarchical model in which files are placed somewhere in a hierarchical tree model. A file is placed in a directory (folder in Windows) or subdirectory at the desired place in the tree structure. The computer memory hierarchy ranks components in terms of response times, with processor registers at the top of the pyramid structure and tape backup at the bottom.

The word hierarchy comes from the Greek hieros, meaning sacred, and archein, meaning to rule. The word first entered English in the fourteenth century. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it originally referred to “each of the three divisions of angels, every one comprising three orders, in the system of Dionysius the Areopagite.”

This was last updated in September 2012
Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • disruptive technology

    - A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry. Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen coined the term.  In his 1997 best-sell... (WhatIs.com)

  • application program interface (API)

    - An application program interface (API) is code that allows two software programs to communicate with each other. Typically, APIs are released for third-party development as part of a software devel... (SearchExchange.com)

  • Microsoft Windows Control Panel

    - The Microsoft Windows Control Panel is a management tool for the Windows operating system (OS) that allows end users to change settings and manage tasks within the OS.  (SearchWindowsServer.com)

Glossaries

  • Computing fundamentals

    - Terms related to computer fundamentals, including computer hardware definitions and words and phrases about software, operating systems, peripherals and troubleshooting.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Tech TalkComment

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.