ECHELON (Fr. from échelle, ladder), in military tactics, a formation of troops in which each body of troops is retired on, but not behind, the flank of the next in front, the position of the whole thus resembling the steps of a staircase. To form échelon from line, the parts of the line move off, each direct to its front, in succession, so that when the formation is completed the rightmost body, for example, is farthest advanced, the one originally next on its left is to the left rear, a third is to the left rear of the second, and so on. The word is also used more loosely to express successive lines, irrespective of distances and relative positions, e.g. the "second échelon of ammunition supply," which is fully a day's march behind the first.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)