The New York State Senate defines "excelsior" as meaning "ever upward" or "still higher." The word comes from Latin, and it is often used by English speakers to express striving for excellence, or to connote that a product or service is of superior quality.
The New York State motto "excelsior" is slightly misapplied, as the word is actually a comparative or intensifier of the root word excelsus, meaning high or eminent. In Latin, excelsior simply means higher. When creating the state motto, excelsior was mistaken for an adverb, indicating movement toward or striving for greater height or eminence. Since its adoption as a state motto, excelsior has been used in other contexts throughout American English, especially as a name for hotels and newspapers, or for commercial products such as wood shavings.