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Lookups spiked 4,700% on August 10, 2021
Excelsior was our top lookups on August 10th, 2021, after the soon-to-be-former Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, used the word in exclamatory fashion in his resignation speech.
cuomo is crying out “Excelsior!” “Love!” “Salvation!”— Philip Gourevitch (@PGourevitch) August 10, 2021
and cut to black
In English use excelsior typically functions as a noun, with the meaning of “fine curled wood shavings used especially for packing fragile items.” If it's not immediately apparent to readers why a governor resigning in the midst of a sexual harassment probe would reference this word, it is because excelsior has a second function, which is somewhat more germane. In addition to the wood-shavings noun, excelsior is also the motto of the state of New York (in this case it is labeled as a Latin adverb, and has the meaning of “higher”).
The Latin excelsior is the comparative of excelsus (“high”). New York adopted a coat of arms in 1778 that incorporated this word as its motto. Excelsior has been used declaratively by others, such as comic book writer Stan Lee, who used to end his columns with the word.
Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.