See more synonyms for ceiling on Thesaurus.com
  1. the overhead interior surface of a room.
  2. the top limit imposed by law on the amount of money that can be charged or spent or the quantity of goods that can be produced or sold.
  3. Aeronautics.
    1. the maximum altitude from which the earth can be seen on a particular day, usually equal to the distance between the earth and the base of the lowest cloud bank.
    2. Also called absolute ceiling.the maximum altitude at which a particular aircraft can operate under specified conditions.
  4. Meteorology. the height above ground level of the lowest layer of clouds that cover more than half of the sky.
  5. a lining applied for structural reasons to a framework, especially in the interior surfaces of a ship or boat.
  6. Also called ceiling piece. Theater. the ceiling or top of an interior set, made of cloth, a flat, or two or more flats hinged together.
  7. the act or work of a person who makes or finishes a ceiling.
  8. vaulting, as in a medieval church.
  1. hit the ceiling, Informal. to become enraged: When he saw the amount of the bill, he hit the ceiling.

Origin of ceiling

1350–1400, for def 7; Middle English; see ceil, -ing1
Related formsceil·inged, adjectivesub·ceil·ing, nounun·ceil·inged, adjectiveun·der·ceil·ing, noun
Can be confusedceiling sealing


verb (used with object)
  1. to overlay (the ceiling of a building or room) with wood, plaster, etc.
  2. to provide with a ceiling.

Origin of ceil

1400–50; late Middle English celen to cover, to panel < ?
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of ceiling

British Dictionary definitions for ceiling


  1. the inner upper surface of a room
    1. an upper limit, such as one set by regulation on prices or wages
    2. (as modifier)ceiling prices
  2. the upper altitude to which an aircraft can climb measured under specified conditionsSee also service ceiling, absolute ceiling
  3. meteorol the highest level in the atmosphere from which the earth's surface is visible at a particular time, usually the base of a cloud layer
  4. a wooden or metal surface fixed to the interior frames of a vessel for rigidity

Word Origin for ceiling

C14: of uncertain origin


verb (tr)
  1. to line (a ceiling) with plaster, boarding, etc
  2. to provide with a ceiling

Word Origin for ceil

C15 celen, perhaps back formation from ceiling
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ceiling

mid-14c., celynge, "act of paneling a room," noun formed (with -ing) from Middle English verb ceil "put a cover or ceiling over," later "cover (walls) with wainscoting, panels, etc." (early 15c.); probably from Middle French celer "to conceal," also "cover with paneling" (12c.), from Latin celare (see cell). Probably influenced by Latin caelum "heaven, sky" (see celestial).

Extended to the paneling itself from late 14c. The meaning "top surface of a room" is attested by 1530s. Figurative sense "upper limit" is from 1934. Colloquial figurative phrase hit the ceiling "lose one's temper, get explosively angry" attested by 1908; earlier it meant "to fail" (by 1900, originally U.S. college slang). Glass ceiling in the figurative sense of "invisible barrier that prevents women from advancing" in management, etc., is attested from 1988.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with ceiling


see glass ceiling; hit the ceiling.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.