What's the difference between "tier" and "layer"?
When should I use "tier" and when should I use "layer"?

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  • 1
    What do the dictionaries say? – WS2 Oct 4 '18 at 7:21
  • @MetaEd, I did try to find answers on the web for a while. Only after feeling the frustration of not being able to find answers I posted the question here. Yet, I didn't feel like "I search the web to no avail" to indicate my research would have helped make the question clearer. – H.Wolper Oct 10 '18 at 5:52

Considering only the common "spatial arrangement" definitions of the words, the difference between the two can be subtle:

layers (arrangement) are: similar sheets/strata placed one above another in succession.

tiers (arrangement) are: similar sheets/strata placed one above another in succession AND each successive level being offset from each other (horizontally or in some other meaningful way).




  • I like your answer with user1535037's pictures. Thank you both. – H.Wolper Oct 10 '18 at 5:50

Think of a cake.

These are the layers of a cake.enter image description here

these are the tiers of a cake. enter image description here

The words are similar in that they mean level, but layer talks about something that is one which is made out of many different levels, while tier is more about many different pieces in a bigger picture, such as hierarchy.

  • Pictures are worth a thousand words. Very picturesque. encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/… – user22542 Oct 4 '18 at 9:16
  • +1 for a picturesque answer, but I'm not sure it is the whole story. Some cakes have layers, others e.g. wedding cakes have tiers, buildings have storeys or levels. They have their similarities, but as with so much in our language, idiom governs what is considered "correct". – WS2 Oct 4 '18 at 20:31
  • I like these pictures with user22542's answer. Thank you both. – H.Wolper Oct 10 '18 at 5:50

"Layer" goes for certain surfaces or objects that divides else things from one and another.

"Tier" use for to specify its level of goodness or badness

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