Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A vertical support at the center of a circular staircase.
  • n. A post that supports a handrail at the bottom or at the landing of a staircase.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A central pillar around which a staircase spirals.
  • n. A sturdy pillar at the top or bottom of a flight of stairs, supporting the handrail.
  • n. A novelty; a new thing.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A novelty; a new thing.
  • n. The upright post about which the steps of a circular staircase wind; hence, in stairs having straight flights, the principal post at the foot of a staircase, or the secondary ones at the landings. Also called newel post. See Hollow newel, under hollow.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In architecture, an upright cylinder or pillar which forms a center from which the steps of a winding stair radiate, and supports their inner ends from the bottom to the top.
  • n. In carpentry, the tall and more or less ornamental post at the head or foot of a stair, supporting a handrail.
  • n. In engineering, a cylindrical pillar terminating the wing-wall of a bridge.
  • n. In a ship, an upright timber which receives the tenons of the rails leading from the breastwork of the gangway.
  • n. A new thing; a novelty.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the central pillar of a circular staircase
  • n. the post at the top or bottom of a flight of stairs; it supports the handrail

Etymologies

Middle English nouel, niewel, from Old French noiel, from Vulgar Latin *nōdellus, little knot, diminutive of Latin nōdulus, diminutive of nōdus, knot; see node.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From new +‎ -el, modelled after novel ("new, original"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • By means of the newel-post I drew myself upright and listened.

    CHAPTER XLIX

  • I missed a frantic clutch at the newel-post, flung up my arm in time to save my face, and, most fortunately, whirled half about, and, still falling, impacted with my shoulder muscle-pad on Captain West's door.

    CHAPTER XXX

  • Taking advantage of favouring spells, I managed to effect my exit and gain the newel-post ere the next series of rolls came.

    CHAPTER XXX

  • A bar in the lobby is made from balusters, newel posts and door transoms from the original tenement staircase.

    For Sale: One Labor of Love

  • She raced past the library, nearly stumbling as she grabbed hold of the newel post at the base of another flight of stairs.

    Charlotte’s Family Tree « A Fly in Amber

  • He reached the stairs and put his hand on the oak newel and took one step after another.

    Excerpt: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

  • We live in a time when a Jewish person's Facebook profile identifies her religion as "Recon-newel-ortho-conserva-form."

    Rabbi Jason Miller: Moving Beyond Denominational Differences in Judaism

  • An antique newel with a carving of a mother and child adorns the staircase leading up to the library.

    Converted Barns Make an Estate

  • Carlton Hobbs Best of English and continental, carltonhobbs.com James Sansum Curated continental, jamessansum.com Cove Landing Poetically assembled 18th- and 19th-century English and continental, 212-288-7597 Dalva Brothers 18th-century French, dalvabrothers.com HM Luther Clean, sophisticated Neoclassic, hmluther.com Newel Large collection of 17th-20th century, newel.com In Chicago:

    Really Fine Prices for Fine Antiques

  • She did not notice the shadow of the stranger as he came slowly down the stairs and paused by the newel post, dark and silent.

    DARKWATER

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  • "Much better than the old L!" : Chicago passengers delighted with their refurbished transit system.

    January 20, 2009

  • newel What is the newel of DNA?

    February 1, 2007

  • "Fixed the newel post!" - Clark Griswold, after finding the newel post at the top of the stairs loose and subsequently sawing it off with a chainsaw.

    December 17, 2006