Last night, I was watching "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?" on SciFi channel -- a show that was hysterical. In any case, at the end of the episode, Stan Lee asked the "superheroes" if they knew what "excelsior" meant. When they said they did not, he told them it was an "Old English word."
Now, he could have been saying it was an "old English word," but the captioning on my TV showed it as "Old English." Stan might know comic books, but his etymology needs work. "Excelsior" pretty obviously comes from Latin, not Old English. Could it be, though, an "old English" word? The Online Etymology Dictionary gives word as being of Latin origin, and doesn't give any earlier uses than the 1778 motto for New York state -- not very old, and not very English. I would argue, though, that we can't consider that the entry of the word into the English language, since the state motto of New York is intended to be a Latin motto, not an English motto. Instead, we have to use Longfellow's title of "Excelsior" in 1841 as the real entry of the word into the English language -- which the Oxford English Dictionary also lists as the earliest use in English (except for the state motto). Again, not very old, and not very English.
So, Stan, it is a Latin word adopted into modern English, next time someone asks. Etymology Man, away!
Many thanks to Gail from the Scribal Terror for e-mailing me the Oxford English Dictionary entry.