I've found one reference that says hierarchial is an alternative form of hierarchical, but it's an unreferenced resource. Some wiseacre wrote a bug fix for my software saying hierarchical was the only spelling of the word and I'd like to prove said wiseacre wrong. So, can someone crack open the Oxford English Dictionary with the tiny print and help me out?

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    The online OED does not have hierarchial either as an entry or as an alternative spelling. It does however have hierarchal, with no cross-reference between that and hierarchical. – Colin Fine Feb 10 '14 at 20:40

Neither Oxford Dictionaries nor the OED has an entry for hierarchial, but the OED does have entries for hierarchal and hierarchic as well as hierarchical. This, however, is not to say that hierarchial doesn’t exist.


Between "a word" and "not a word" is a no-man's-land where the casualties of past flame wars lie bleeding.

That said, your proposed variant is wobbling on two weak legs, not only is the -ial unusual here at best, but the heir- is generally considered a typo when it happens.

You might be able to show it meets the condition of at least having some use, but it wouldn't be advisable to use.

For that matter, I can find jerarchy, jerarchye, cherarchy, ierarche each mentioned in the OED as having been forms used for hierarchy, but that doesn't make any of them spellings to use in most modern contexts.

  • yeah, the most annoying part about the word (whether or not it ever existed in medical terminology) is that it appears to have been removed from government websites probably by some gigantic spell checker in the sky. It was used, and appears to be copied from US Government sources in our source code hundreds of times, but is no longer found on cms.gov. – Peter Turner Feb 10 '14 at 23:56

Wiktionary lists hierarchial as an alternative form of hierarchical. (NB spelling)

Google tries to correct to hierarchical, though.

Interestingly, the NIH (which should particularly know the difference between hierarchical and hierarchial) lists their "Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management" Hierarchial Structure. This might be more common in the Sciences and technology.

Hierarchial taxonomy terms should not be unique on different parents.
You can perform a Hierarchial Run to solve your model for multiple objectives simultaneously. (IBM)
Hierarchial Coassembly of a Cyanine Dye in Poly(vinyl alcohol) Fibrous Films by Electrospinning (ACS Journals)
Hierarchial Task Analysis (book by) Andrew Shepherd

  • So, perhaps a medical records program might be more likely to use the spelling "Heirarchial" than something to do with Military or Religious power structures? – Peter Turner Feb 10 '14 at 20:40
  • Yes, I would agree with that, although hierarchical would still be more common. – anongoodnurse Feb 10 '14 at 20:53
  • The fact that it appears only in Wiktionary confirms my opinion that it is the best place to go for misspelled words. – Mitch Feb 11 '14 at 0:40

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