pecking order

noun
1.
Animal Behavior. a dominance hierarchy, seen especially in domestic poultry, that is maintained by one bird pecking another of lower status.
2.
a sequence or hierarchy of authority in an organization or social group.
Also, peck order.


Origin:
1925–30

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
pecking order
 
n
1.  Also called: peck order a natural hierarchy in a group of gregarious birds, such as domestic fowl
2.  any hierarchical order, as among people in a particular group

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

pecking order definition


A hierarchy within a social group or community, in which those members at the top assume positions of leadership, authority, and power. The expression originated from a description of social behavior among chickens, which attack each other by pecking to establish dominance.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

pecking order

The hierarchy of authority in a group, as in On a space mission, the astronauts have a definite pecking order. This expression, invented in the 1920s by biologists who discovered that domestic poultry maintain such a hierarchy with one bird pecking another of lower status, was transferred to human behavior in the 1950s.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

pecking order

a form of animal social structure in which a linear or nearly linear ranking exists, with each animal dominant over those below it and submissive to those above it in the hierarchy. Dominance hierarchies are best known in social mammals, such as baboons and wolves, and in birds, notably chickens (in which the term peck order or peck right is often applied)

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
It's the beginning of the pecking order that doesn't stop at the property line
  of the farm.
We are in a good place as far as the teams in our conference rank, but there's
  a pecking order that takes place in the conference.
Another type of pecking order revolves around the placement of a group's
  detector.
It's an exposé on the vicious pecking order that is sometimes humorous,
  sometimes mildly tragic.
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