Adventures in Etymology – Ladder

In today’s Adventure in Etymology we’re looking at the origins of the word ladder.


A ladder [ˈladə/ˈlædɚ] is:

  • a frame, usually portable, of wood, metal, or rope, used for ascent and descent, consisting of two side pieces to which are fastened rungs
  • a series of stages by which one progresses to a better position

It comes from the Middle English ladder/laddre [ˈladər], from the Old English hlǣder [ˈxlæː.der] (ladder), from the Proto-Germanic *hlaidrijō [ˈxlɑi̯.dri.jɔː] (ladder) from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱley- (to lean, slope, incline) [source]

English words from the same PIE root include: climate, client, clinic, decline, incline and lean [source].

Words in Celtic languages meaning left (hand/side) come from the same PIE root, including: clé in Irish, clì in Scottish Gaelic, cledd in Welsh and kleiz in Breton, which also means north [source].

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about words, etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

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