Etymology
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ladder (n.)

Old English hlæder "ladder, steps," from Proto-Germanic *hlaidri (source also of Old Frisian hledere, Middle Dutch ledere, Old High German leitara, German Leiter), from suffixed form of PIE root *klei- "to lean" (source also of Greek klimax "ladder"). In late Old English, rungs were læddrestæfæ and the side pieces were ledder steles. The belief that bad things happen to people who walk under ladders is attested from 1787, but its origin likely is more scientific than superstitious.

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ladder-back (adj.)

1898 as a type of chair, from ladder (n.) + back (n.).

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step-ladder (n.)

also stepladder, one with flat steps instead of rungs, 1728, from step (n.) + ladder.

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*klei- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to lean."

It forms all or part of: acclivity; anticline; clemency; client; climate; climax; cline; clinic; clinical; clino-; clitellum; clitoris; decline; declivity; enclitic; heteroclite; incline; ladder; lean (v.); lid; low (n.2) "small hill, eminence;" matroclinous; patroclinous; polyclinic; proclitic; proclivity; recline; synclinal; thermocline.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit srayati "leans," sritah "leaning;" Old Persian cay "to lean;" Lithuanian šlyti "to slope," šlieti "to lean;" Latin clinare "to lean, bend," clivus "declivity," inclinare "cause to bend," declinare "bend down, turn aside;" Greek klinein "to cause to slope, slant, incline;" Old Irish cloin "crooked, wrong;" Middle Irish cle, Welsh cledd "left," literally "slanting").

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echelon (n.)

1796, echellon, "step-like arrangement of troops," from French échelon "level, echelon," literally "rung of a ladder," from Old French eschelon, from eschiele "ladder," from Late Latin scala "stair, slope," from Latin scalae (plural) "ladder, steps," from PIE *skand- "to spring, leap" (see scan (v.)). Sense of "level, subdivision" is from World War I.

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pompier (n.)

"fireman's scaling ladder," short for pompier ladder (by 1893), French, literally "fireman," from pompe "pump" (see pump (n.1)).

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scalar (adj.)

1650s, "resembling a ladder," from Latin scalaris "of or pertaining to a ladder," from scalae (plural) "ladder, steps, flight of steps" (see scale (n.2)). The noun in the mathematical sense of "a real number" is from 1846, coined by Irish mathematician William R. Hamilton (1805-1865), who can explain why it is the correct word for that.

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scale (v.1)

"to climb (a wall) by or as by a ladder; attack with scaling ladders," late 14c., scalen, from Latin scala "ladder, flight of stairs," from *scansla, from stem of scandere "to climb" (see scan (v.)).

Middle English scale, "ladder used in sieges," is attested c. 1400, from the Latin noun. The verb in general and figurative use (of mountains, heights of pleasure, etc.) is from 16c.

Via scale (n.3) "standard of measure or estimation" comes the meaning "measure or regulate by a scale" (1798), the sense of "draw, project, or make according to scale" (by 1885), and scale down "cut or decrease proportionally in every part" (by 1887). Related: Scaled; scaling.

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stile (n.)

Old English stigel, stile "device for climbing, ladder," related to stigen "to climb," from Proto-Germanic *stig- "to climb" (see stair). An arrangement to allow persons to pass but not sheep and cattle.

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back down (v.)

in figurative sense of "withdraw a charge," 1859, American English, from the notion of descending a ladder, etc. (such a literal sense is attested by 1849); from back (v.) + down (adv.).

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