Using "escalate" to mean something like "refer to a higher level in the organisaion."

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Lapsed Moderator
English-Ireland (top end)
I have been surprised by the reactions to the use of "escalate" in
The opposite of "escalate"
In my experience it is the perfect verb to convey the sense of raising a problem to a higher level of competence.
That may be because I've been using it for decades in a technical support context.

Let me give a specific example.
We operate a telephone support service.
Calls are dealt with by front line support staff. They are recorded on our support system.
If a problem has not been resolved within a defined target time, something happens to it so that it comes to the attention of a higher level of management.
The terminology used is that the problem has been escalated, raised to a higher level.
There are several levels of escalation, so that a problem may, in the end, be escalated to the Chief Executive.

It would be interesting to hear how others react to this.

Other related threads:

  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In my experience over decades in high-tech, this is standard usage. It may not conform to the way the word was used two centuries ago, or even 50 years ago, but language evolves. I'm one of those die-hards who insists that "data," "media" and "criteria" are plural, but I accept this one without complaining.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    For your and my comfort, "escalate" (verb) is a back-formation from "escalator", a term first recorded in 1900.
    1900 N.Y. Jrnl. 25 Nov. 59/2 The escalator‥is a movable stairway built by the Otis Elevator Company for the use of passengers of the Manhattan Elevated Railway.

    "escalate" (verb) in the sense we are discussing is a lot more recent:
    1959 Manch. Guardian 12 Nov. 1/1 The possibility of local wars ‘escalating into all-out atomic wars’.

    Examples copied from the OED.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    It may not conform to the way the word was used two centuries ago, or even 50 years ago, but language evolves.
    "Escalate" is a back-formation from "escalator" circa 1922. Back then, it meant "use an escalator". The sense of "raise, increase in seriousness" is from the Cold War - late 1950s.


    English - UK
    I used to work for a worldwide, household-name online tech firm, and this is totally normal and correct usage. E.g. "If you do not have the authority to process the request, escalate to a manager." In my experience, it can be either transitive or intransitive.
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