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excelsior the Latin motto (‘higher’) on the seal of the State of New York (adopted by the senate of that state 16 March 1778), the accompanying device being a rising sun. From this New York State is known informally as the Excelsior State.

In his poem ‘Excelsior’ (1841), the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longellow used the word as a refrain meaning ‘upwards’, as an injunction or aspiration (‘A voice replied, far up the height, Excelsior!’). When it was pointed out that this was not grammatically correct, he is said to have suggested that the word might stand for a longer phrase, ‘Scopus meus excelsior est [My goal is higher].’

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