Definitions

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

  • n. Slender, curved wood shavings used especially for packing.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Loftier, yet higher; ever upward
  • n. An originally trademarked name for stuffing material (as for furniture and mattresses) made of slender, curled wood shavings, as a substitute for hair.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. More lofty; still higher; ever upward.
  • n. A kind of stuffing for upholstered furniture, mattresses, etc., in which curled shreds of wood are substituted for curled hair.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Loftier; more elevated; higher: the motto of New York State, hence sometimes called the Excelsior State.
  • n. The trade-name of a fine quality of wood-shavings, used as stuffing for cushions, beds, etc., and as a packing material.
  • n. A printing-type, now known as 3-point—about 24 lines to the inch. It is too small for letters, but is used for characters of music, piece fractions, and border decorations. See type, 8.

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

  • n. thin curly wood shavings used for packing or stuffing

Etymologies

Originally a trademark.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin excelsior, comparative of excelsus ("high"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • And by that time Heppie had the crate in the wood-box, and the excelsior was a black and smoking mass at the kitchen end of the grounds.

    The Window at the White Cat

  • He knows how to work with outdated packing material like the thinly curled wood shavings known as excelsior and how to carve commercial deer mounts into shapes for wild antelopes and oryxes.

    NPR Topics: News

  • This introduces a possible danger from fire, in case the hot stove plate should come into direct contact with inflammable packing material such as excelsior or paper.

    Ontario Teachers' Manuals: Household Science in Rural Schools

  • His motto was "excelsior" in whatever he engaged, and in farming he realized success.

    History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880. Vol. 2 (of 2) Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens

  • Still onwards, "excelsior," the pines were more straight and lofty; there were patches of wild myrtle on the ground, some in white blossom; and we looked down upon the flat roofs of villages below, an appearance so strange to us after the round domes of the south country.

    Byeways in Palestine

  • In the evolution of the birds and other animals, the cry of "excelsior" has been followed literally as well as theoretically and, with a few exceptions, the highest in each class have not only risen above their fellows in intelligence and structure, but have left the earth and climbed or flown to the tree-tops, making these their chief place of abode.

    The Log of the Sun A Chronicle of Nature's Year

  • I suppose one little leader must wave its little tail and cry "excelsior" to the others.

    A Woman Rice Planter

  • It was hard climbing on account of the steepness of the acclivity, its rocky character, and the thick network of bushes and brambles in many places; but "excelsior" was our motto in all our mountaineering, and we allowed no surmountable difficulties to daunt us.

    Birds of the Rockies

  • Beulah, I have written 'excelsior' on my banner, and I intend, like that noble youth, to press forward over every obstacle, mounting at every step, until I, too, stand on the highest pinnacle, and plant my banner where its glorious motto shall float over the world.

    Beulah

  • The lesson might perhaps have been given, and Miss Furnival might have imparted to Mr. Staveley her idea of "excelsior" in the matter of love-making, had not Mr. Staveley's mother come into the room at that moment.

    Orley Farm

Comments

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  • The current Wordnik entry for EXCELSIOR does not include any mention of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem "Excelsior", which inspired many people in diverse pursuits. Nor does the current entry include the following Kurt Vonnegut quote.

    WORD: excelsior
    DEFINITION:

    (1) ' adj. Loftier, yet higher; ever upward. ' -- Wiktionary
    (2) ' n. An originally trademarked name for stuffing material (as for furniture and mattresses) made of slender, curled wood shavings, as a substitute for hair. ' -- Wiktionary

    (3)' A brief poem written and published in 1841 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Originally appeared in the 1841 edition of Ballads and Other Poems.

    ' The poem describes a young man passing through a town bearing the banner "Excelsior" (translated from Latin as "ever higher", also loosely but more widely as "onward and upward"), ignoring all warnings, climbing higher until inevitably, "lifeless, but beautiful" he is found by the "faithful hound" half-buried in the snow, "still clasping in his hands of ice that banner with the strange device, Excelsior!". . .

    FULL TEXT of Longfellow's poem Excelsior!: << en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excelsior_(Longfellow)#Text_of_poem >>

    ' The poem was a staple of American readers for many years, and A Plea for Old Cap Collier by Irvin S. Cobb, satirized it. The title of Excelsior was reportedly inspired by the state seal of New York, which bears the Latin motto Excelsior. James Thurber (1894–1961) illustrated the poem in The Thurber Carnival in 1945. There is a Lancashire version or parody, Uppards, written by Marriott Edgar one hundred years later in 1941. In Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, the entire action of the play happens in a fictitious New Jersey town with the name "Excelsior". The famous Sam Loyd chess problem, Excelsior, was named after this poem.

    "Excelsior" also became a trade name for wood shavings used as packing material or furniture stuffing. In Bullwinkle's Corner, Bullwinkle the Moose parodies the poem in Season 2 Episode 18 (1960–61) of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show:

    The answer came both quick and blunt:
    It's just a advertising stunt.
    I represent Smith, Jones, & Jakes,
    A lumber company that makes
    . . . Excelsior!


    -- Wikipedia << http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excelsior_(Longfellow) >>

    EXAMPLE of senses (1), (2), and (3):

    ' Trout saw that a simple fire extinguisher in the Galaxie had this brand name:

    ' = EXCELSIOR =

    ' As far as Trout knew, this word meant higher in a dead language. It was also a thing a fictitious mountain climber in a famous poem kept yelling as he disappeared into a blizzard up above. And it was also the trade name for wood shavings which were used to protect fragile objects inside packages.

    ' "Why would anybody name a fire extinguisher Excelsior? Trout asked the driver.

    ' The driver shrugged. "Somebody must have liked the sound of it," he said. '

    -- From Kurt Vonnegut's 1973 novel Breakfast of Champions (pages 171 - 172).

    1973 KURT VONNEGUT, JR. Breakfast of Champions, or, Goodbye Blue Monday.

    August 29, 2013

  • also see excelsior--1

    March 15, 2013

  • “Excelsior” is the most parodied of Longfellow’s poems. Indeed it is almost a parody of itself. For Longfellow, “Excelsior” meant “higher and higher,” as the youth struggles upward only to die without gaining his objective. Longfellow wrote the poem in 1841, inspired by the New York State seal, which bore a shield with a rising sun and the motto Excelsior.
    Oliver Wendell Holmes thought that “the repetition of the aspiring exclamation…lifts every stanza a step higher,” but Irvin Cobb thought the exclamation should be “Bonehead!” Harvard students used to sing a song, and maybe still do, with each stanza ending in “Upidee!” and lines laced with “la la’s.” Bret Harte wrote a parody in which each stanza ended with “Sapolio!” – the name of a soap.
    —Best Remembered Poems, Martin Gardner

    March 14, 2013

  • I know it from Longfellow, who according to Wikipedia got it from the seal of New York. WeirdNet clearly has less lofty ideas.

    September 27, 2008

  • I think Stan Lee from Marvel Comics used this word often.

    September 27, 2008

  • I did a double take when I read this definition. Apparently it comes from a trademark.

    September 27, 2008