excelsior

1
[ ik-sel-see-er, ek- ]
/ ɪkˈsɛl si ər, ɛk- /

noun

fine wood shavings, used for stuffing, packing, etc.
Printing. a 3-point type: a size smaller than brilliant.

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Origin of excelsior

1
An Americanism dating back to 1770–80; formerly a trademark

Definition for excelsior (2 of 2)

excelsior2
[ ek-sel-si-ohr; English ik-sel-see-awr, ek- ]
/ ɛkˈsɛl sɪˌoʊr; English ɪkˈsɛl siˌɔr, ɛk- /

adjective Latin.

ever upward: motto of New York State.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What else does excelsior mean?

Excelsior is a Latin word translated into English as a motto meaning “Ever upward!”

Marvel comics legend Stan Lee, who helped create such iconic characters as Spider-Man and the Hulk, famously used Excelsior! as his catchphrase.

Where does excelsior come from?

Excelsior is a Latin adjective that literally means “higher” or “more elevated.” It is connected to the Latin verb excellere, which is where the English excel comes from.

In 1778, the state of New York adopted a coat of arms that included the word excelsior, which it took to mean “ever upward.” Excelsior also appears on the New York state seal and state flag, both depicting the coat of arms. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow helped further popularize excelsior as an aspirational cry for “Ever upward!” in an 1841 poem.

Stan Lee, a New Yorker who began working on comics in the 1960s, first used excelsior in the “Stan’s Soapbox” section of the 1968 Fantastic Four #71. Lee had used other phrases as a sign-off in earlier issues, but Lee said that his competitors began stealing his catchphrases. So, Lee decided on a phrase that was more obscure and difficult to spell so none of his rivals would copy it. The gambit worked, and Lee used Excelsior! as a personal catchphrase for the rest of his life, including as the title of a memoir.

How is excelsior used in real life?

Two things really seem to have cornered the lexical market on excelsior in the U.S.: New York State, where it appears on its official insignia, and Stan Lee. Lee used Excelsior! an untold number of times. His Twitter account alone includes over 100 uses of it.

After Stan Lee died on November 12, 2018, excelsior trended worldwide as millions of fans tweeted his catchphrase in honor of him.

 

 

Lee was so beloved in the comic industry that even DC Comics, rival of Marvel (who published Lee’s books), threw out an excelsior to honor his memory.

Like New York State and Stan Lee, people may use excelsior as a way to express ambition and aspiration, always striving for greatness.

More examples of excelsior:

“With great power comes great responsibility. Excelsior!”
—@TheRealStanLee, May 2018

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for excelsior

British Dictionary definitions for excelsior

excelsior
/ (ɪkˈsɛlsɪˌɔː) /

interjection, adverb, noun

excellent: used as a motto and as a trademark for various products, esp in the US for fine wood shavings used for packing breakable objects
upwards

Word Origin for excelsior

C19: from Latin: higher
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