ex·​cel ik-ˈsel How to pronounce excel (audio)
excelled; excelling

transitive verb

: to be superior to : surpass in accomplishment or achievement

intransitive verb

: to be distinguishable by superiority : surpass others
excel in sports
excelled at lipreading
Choose the Right Synonym for excel

exceed, surpass, transcend, excel, outdo, outstrip mean to go or be beyond a stated or implied limit, measure, or degree.

exceed implies going beyond a limit set by authority or established by custom or by prior achievement.

exceed the speed limit

surpass suggests superiority in quality, merit, or skill.

the book surpassed our expectations

transcend implies a rising or extending notably above or beyond ordinary limits.

transcended the values of their culture

excel implies preeminence in achievement or quality and may suggest superiority to all others.

excels in mathematics

outdo applies to a bettering or exceeding what has been done before.

outdid herself this time

outstrip suggests surpassing in a race or competition.

outstripped other firms in sales

Examples of excel in a Sentence

She excels everyone else in sports. the special effects in this new sci-fi extravaganza excel any that we've seen previously
Recent Examples on the Web Megan Kirkpatrick continued to excel for the Gladiators with a match-best 25 points as Iesha DeSilva added on 15. Baltimore Sun Staff, Baltimore Sun, 19 Sep. 2023 Having excelled at interceptions (not so much at hits), Diggs created two turnovers on his own with that early hit that led to a Bland interception and then a strip that caused Isaiah Hodgins to fumble into the arms of Israel Mukuamu in the fourth quarter. Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas News, 11 Sep. 2023 In many ways, learning is his antidote to failure—something other leaders have championed as a way to excel in an organization or team. Alexa Mikhail, Fortune Well, 9 Sep. 2023 In contrast, the energy sector continued to excel, with Marathon Petroleum, Valero Energy and Halliburton among the top-performing S&P 500 stocks for the week. Detroit Free Press, 9 Sep. 2023 Many of the players developed by these coaches excelled in the NFL and went into the pro football Hall of Fame—among them Charlie Joiner of Grambling and the San Diego Chargers, Richard Dent of TSU and the Chicago Bears, and Ken Riley of FAMU and the Cincinnati Bengals. Samuel G. Freedman, The New Republic, 8 Sep. 2023 And with better protection from the offensive line, which allowed Watson to be sacked 20 times in 2022, Watson can excel and maybe Nick Chubb can creep closer to the NFL’s rushing title. Irie Harris, cleveland, 8 Sep. 2023 Indeed, in a world where AI excels in the virtual space, the art of performing in-person will be a particularly valuable skill across a host of managerial, professional and customer-facing occupations. David Meyer, Fortune, 18 Sep. 2023 Carson Erick, Hingham — With two matches on the schedule, the senior excelled for the second week in a row, shooting one-under in a 228-230 win over Duxbury and even-par against Silver Lake to propel the Harbormen (4-0) to a perfect week. Joe Eachus, BostonGlobe.com, 16 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'excel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English excellen, from Latin excellere, from ex- + -cellere to rise, project; akin to Latin collis hill — more at hill

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of excel was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near excel

Cite this Entry

“Excel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/excel. Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


ex·​cel ik-ˈsel How to pronounce excel (audio)
excelled; excelling
: to do or be better than others : surpass
a student who excels in sports
excels her brother at tennis

More from Merriam-Webster on excel

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