What Is the State Motto of New York: Ever Upward with ‘Excelsior’

by Joseph Miller
What Is the State Motto of New York

Exploring the rich tapestry of New York’s identity inevitably leads us to a question steeped in historical significance: What is the state motto of New York? Beyond the bustling streets of Manhattan and the iconic skyline, lies a motto encapsulating the spirit of the Empire State. Join us on a journey of discovery as we delve into the origins and meaning behind this emblematic phrase. 

From the majestic Niagara Falls to the vibrant energy of Times Square, understanding New York’s motto offers a glimpse into its ethos and values. 

Prepare to uncover insights that resonate with both residents and curious minds alike, as we unravel the layers of symbolism embedded within this succinct yet powerful declaration.

What Is the State Motto of New York?

The state motto of New York, “Excelsior,” carries a profound significance that goes beyond its literal Latin translation of “ever upward.” Adopted in 1778, this powerful term encapsulates the ambitious spirit and relentless drive for progress that characterizes the state and its people. 

This motto was chosen during a period of significant growth and transformation, symbolizing New York’s aspirations to lead and excel in various domains, including commerce, education, arts, and technological innovation.

“Excelsior” is not merely a motto but a reflection of New York’s historical journey and its vision for the future. It mirrors the state’s diverse landscape — from the bustling metropolis of New York City to the serene natural beauty of the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes — each element striving towards growth and excellence.

The motto underscores New York’s role as a melting pot of cultures, ideas, and innovations, fostering an environment where progress is both celebrated and encouraged.

Furthermore, “Excelsior” embodies the resilience of New Yorkers, their ability to overcome challenges, and their unwavering pursuit of higher goals. 

It serves as a reminder of the state’s commitment to social justice, environmental sustainability, and economic opportunity for all its residents. This enduring principle guides policymakers, educators, and citizens alike, inspiring them to work towards a brighter, more inclusive future.

Why Was “Excelsior” Chosen as New York’s State Motto?

Behind the choice of ‘Excelsior’ as New York’s state motto lies a profound narrative of aspiration and progress. This Latin term, translating to ‘ever upward,’ epitomizes the relentless pursuit of excellence ingrained in the state’s ethos. From its economic endeavors to cultural endeavors, New York has ceaselessly strived to ascend to greater heights.

In the throes of the mid-19th century, as New York burgeoned into a beacon of innovation and leadership, ‘Excelsior’ was adopted to mirror the optimism and resilience of its populace. It became a rallying cry, a testament to the state’s unwavering commitment to advancement and distinction. ‘Excelsior’ wasn’t just a phrase; it embodied a collective resolve to surpass limitations and embrace boundless possibilities.

Thus, the selection of ‘Excelsior’ wasn’t arbitrary; it was a deliberate affirmation of New York’s identity as a bastion of ambition and achievement, urging its inhabitants to continually reach for the stars and redefine what is achievable.

How Does the State Motto Reflect New York’s Identity?

New York’s state motto, “Excelsior,” reflects the state’s identity in several profound ways. Firstly, it embodies the relentless spirit of New Yorkers, known for their resilience, ambition, and drive to succeed. Whether in the bustling streets of New York City, the innovative corridors of Silicon Alley, or the tranquil landscapes upstate, this motto inspires individuals and communities to aim higher.

Secondly, “Excelsior” mirrors New York’s status as a land of opportunity, where dreams can become reality through hard work and determination. It speaks to the state’s rich history of welcoming people from all walks of life, offering them a chance to build a better future.

Finally, the motto underscores New York’s role as a trendsetter and a global leader. From finance to fashion, technology to the arts, New York sets the pace, always moving “ever upward.”

What Impact Does New York’s State Motto Have Today?

New York’s state motto, “Excelsior,” serves as a unifying force, driving ambition, innovation, and resilience across the state.

1. Upholding Tradition and Identity:

The state motto “Excelsior” is deeply ingrained in New York’s history, serving as a symbol of its enduring values and aspirations. By upholding this tradition, New Yorkers reaffirm their commitment to the principles of progress and excellence.

2. Driving Economic Growth and Innovation:

“Excelsior” inspires a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, driving economic growth across various sectors. From Wall Street to Silicon Alley, the motto encourages businesses and individuals to push boundaries and strive for success.

3. Fostering Social Progress and Inclusion:

In embracing the spirit of “Excelsior,” New York continues its tradition of championing social progress and inclusion. The motto catalyzes policies and initiatives that promote equality, diversity, and justice for all.

4. Inspiring Personal and Professional Development:

On an individual level, “Excelsior” motivates New Yorkers to pursue personal and professional growth relentlessly. Whether it’s advancing in their careers, pursuing education, or achieving personal goals, the motto encourages individuals to aim higher and reach for their dreams.

5. Strengthening Community Resilience:

In times of adversity, the resilience embedded in the state motto becomes particularly evident. “Excelsior” inspires communities to come together, support one another, and overcome challenges, reinforcing the bonds that unite New Yorkers in their pursuit of a brighter future.


In conclusion, New York’s state motto, “Excelsior,” is a powerful testament to the state’s indomitable spirit and its relentless pursuit of excellence. It encapsulates the ambition, resilience, and forward-thinking nature of New York and its people, serving as a guiding principle for progress across all spheres of life. This motto reflects New York’s commitment to innovation, cultural diversity, and social progress, inspiring individuals to reach beyond their limits and aspire for a better future. “Excelsior” is not just a word but a reflection of New York’s identity, symbolizing an ever-upward journey towards greater achievements and a brighter future for everyone who calls the Empire State home.


1. What does the state motto of New York, “Excelsior,” mean?

“Excelsior” is a Latin word that translates to “ever upward” in English. It symbolizes an ongoing pursuit of higher goals, reflecting New York’s continuous drive towards progress, excellence, and improvement in all areas of life, from economic and technological innovation to cultural diversity and environmental stewardship.

2. Why was “Excelsior” chosen as the motto for New York?

“Excelsior” was chosen as New York’s state motto to encapsulate the state’s aspirational spirit and its commitment to advancing and excelling in various domains. The motto was adopted in the 19th century, a time when New York was experiencing rapid growth and establishing itself as a leader in commerce, culture, and innovation. It resonated with the optimism and forward-looking attitude of its people, symbolizing their determination to reach new heights and achieve greatness.

3. How does the state motto “Excelsior” reflect the identity of New York?

The motto “Excelsior” reflects New York’s identity by embodying the state’s dynamic and ambitious nature. It captures the essence of New York’s history, its role as a cultural melting pot, and its status as a global leader in various sectors. The motto encourages New Yorkers to strive for excellence, overcome challenges, and pursue a better future, mirroring the state’s innovative spirit and its dedication to social progress and environmental sustainability.

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