1300-50; < Medieval Latinhierarchia < Late Greekhierarchía rule or power of the high priest, equivalent to hier-hier- + archía-archy; replacing Middle Englishjerarchie < Middle Frenchierarchie < Medieval Latinierarchia, variant of hierarchia
c.1343, from O.Fr. ierarchie, from M.L. hierarchia "ranked division of angels" (in the system of Dionysius the Areopagite), from Gk. hierarchia "rule of a high priest," from hierarches "high priest, leader of sacred rites," from ta hiera "the sacred rites" (neut. pl. of hieros "sacred") + archein "to lead, rule." Sense of "ranked organization of persons or things" first recorded 1619, initially of clergy, probably infl. by higher.