Question (fill in the blank): Vertical is to hierarchical as horizontal is to _______?

Google searching for this word using synonym, antonym, and 'orthogonal to' haven't given me what I'm looking for. Equal is inappropriate, and I'd like to avoid phrases like "equal rank." Furthermore, "peer" has a social connotation I'd like to avoid. So essentially: independent but of the same hierarchical rank/stratum... "equistratic"?

I'm leaning toward "contemporaneous" but I'm hoping for a word that has a static connotation rather than dynamic/transient. I may also go with "commensurate" from Word for having the same rank.

  • 1
    nonhierarchical. – Phil Sweet Apr 19 '19 at 19:07

Although you don't want equal, I think there is a different word that is similar but a better fit.

My interpretation of this is based not on an actual company's organization or visual representation of employee roles, but on the underlying principles.

"Vertical is to hierarchical as horizontal is to egalitarian."

: asserting, promoting, or marked by egalitarianism

1 : a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs
2 : a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people

In other words, people at a company who have the same so-called rank are people who, as a group, are treated in a like fashion. No employee within a particular stratum is any different than any other employee in that same stratum.

Note that if you take hierarchical to mean a visual representation, rather than a principle, then while "vertical is to hierarchical," so is horizontal. Within a hierarchy, people will fit both vertically and horizontally.

If you really are talking about a visual representation, then a better analogy would be chess.

"Within a hierarchy, vertical is to rank as horizontal is to file."


3 d : any of the rows of squares that extend across a chessboard perpendicular to the files

file (noun 3)
2 : any of the rows of squares that extend across a chessboard from one player's side to the other player's side

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  • I think, for my work, I'll go with rank and file. Thank you! – Eric Inclan Apr 22 '19 at 2:10

Linear seems to be correct.

When linearity prevails over hierarchy in syntax

[Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.]


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  • Thanks for the link. Good example. I can't upvote an answer. – Eric Inclan Apr 22 '19 at 2:09

In the context of organizational structure, a hierarchical structure stresses vertical accountability whereas a flat structure stresses (horizontal) egalitarianism.

A flat organization refers to an organization structure with few or no levels of management between management and staff level employees. The flat organization supervises employees less while promoting their increased involvement in the decision-making process. - Colette L. Meehan, Flat Vs. Hierarchical Organizational Structure

In this context,

  • Vertical is to hierarchical as horizontal is to flat.
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In a hierarchy elements are defined to be below or above one another, hence the term Vertical is used or seen in an illustration. The tendency is to search for a horizontal hierarchy for the answer and be trapped. It is only used for an example and is not what we are looking for. Think of a Horizontal arrangement. There is the answer. These are still hard to choose from; Linear and Sequential come to mind.

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  • 2
    As does flat... – Wayfaring Stranger Apr 19 '19 at 19:28
  • @WayfaringStranger I saw your comment after posting my answer. If you'd like to post a similar answer and ping me, I'll delete mine. – Lawrence Apr 20 '19 at 2:46
  • Thank you for "arrangement" as well as "linear" and "sequential". Since I do not want to suggest a preference among items in the arrangement, I am going with a different answer. I'd upvote if I could. – Eric Inclan Apr 22 '19 at 2:11

I've found heterarchical as an opposite to hierarchical in the sense of "an organization system where elements have no single canonical order". This is a rather obscure word, though.

In data processing, parallel can be seen as the opposite of hierarchical. Each node of the parallel process is doing the same thing as each other node, though there is usually a master node directing them that creates an element of hierarchy

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  • I don't have enough reputation to upvote an answer, but this was a very close tie for first. Thank you! – Eric Inclan Apr 22 '19 at 2:08

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