Excelsior

[ik-sel-see-awr]

What does Excelsior mean?

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

RELATED WORDS

It was famously the catchphrase of Marvel comics legend Stan Lee.

RELATED WORDS
Examples of Excelsior

Advertisement

Examples of Excelsior
With great power comes great responsibility. Excelsior!
@TheRealStanLee, May 2018
So thanks for all the stories, Stan, and I know you're hearing this a lot today, but "Excelsior."
Stephen Colbert, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, November 2018
Imgflip  

Where does Excelsior come from?

Tenor

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.

JeromeG111 / Flickr

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.

Amazon

Even when being playfully mocked, Lee couldn’t avoid Excelsior, as seen in this sketch from a 2007 episode of the TV show Robot Chicken. (Lee voiced himself in the episode.)

Who uses Excelsior?

Two things have cornered the market on Excelsior: 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, heated 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.

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.