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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Newel \New"el\ (n[=u]"[e^]l), n. [From New. Cf. Novel.] A novelty; a new thing. [Obs.]


Newel \New"el\ (n[=u]"[e^]l), n. [OF. nual, F. noyau sone, of fruit, noyau d'escaler newel, fr. L. nucalis like a nut, fr. nux, nucis, nut. Cf. Nowel the inner wall of a mold, Nucleus.] (Arch.) The upright post about which the steps of a circular staircase wind; hence, in stairs having straight flights, the principal post at the foot of a staircase, or the secondary ones at the landings. Also called newel post. See Hollow newel, under Hollow.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

mid-14c., "pillar from which steps of a winding staircase radiate," from Old French noel, novel "knob, newel, kernel, stone" (Modern French noyau), from Vulgar Latin *nodellus "little knot," diminutive of Latin nodulus, diminutive of nodus "knot" (see net (n.)). Klein's sources suggest the French word may be from Gallo-Roman *nucale, from Latin nux "nut." The meaning "post at the top or bottom of a staircase" is from 1833.


Etymology 1 n. 1 (context architecture English) A central pillar around which a staircase spirals. 2 (context architecture English) A sturdy pillar at the top or bottom of a flight of stairs, supporting the handrail. Etymology 2

n. (context obsolete English) A novelty; a new thing.

  1. n. the post at the top or bottom of a flight of stairs; it supports the handrail [syn: newel post]

  2. the central pillar of a circular staircase


A newel, also called a central pole or support column, is the central supporting pillar of a spiral staircase. It can also (usually as "newel post") refer to an upright post that supports the handrail of a stair banister. In stairs having straight flights it is the principal post at the foot of the staircase, but it can also be used for the intermediate posts on landings and at the top of a staircase. Although its primary purpose is structural, newels have long been adorned with decorative trim and designed with different architectural styles.

Newels are sometimes called solid newels in distinction from hollow newels due to varying techniques of construction. Newel posts turned on a lathe are solid glue laminated pieces. Hollow newels are known more accurately as box newel posts. In historic homes, it is believed that the house plans were placed in the newel upon completion of the house before the newel was capped.

A loose ball cap finial on the newel post at the base of the stairway is a plot device in the 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life. The same is used in jest in the 1989 film Christmas Vacation.

Newel (disambiguation)

Newel may refer to:

  • Newel, the upright post about which the steps of a circular staircase wind
  • Newel, Germany

People with the given name Newel:

  • Newel K. Whitney (1795-1850), American convert to Mormanism
  • Newel Knight (1800-1847), American convert to Mormanism

Usage examples of "newel".

Eve, she was doing the kantirs of a fourth-level water flowing pattern when she saw Ghillie, upside down from her position at that moment, staring at her open-mouthed around the newel of the spiral stair.

Leaving his room brusquely, to take this revelation away and try to fit it into the hectic tangram of recent events, she had hardly reached the newel at the stairhead when she heard a crash.

Ci Minutes later we were at the head of th starting to descend and join Jory and Melodu we could see near the newel post at the Melodic wore a simple black gown that drap black shoestring straps.

The house in Woburn Place looked as if it had remained unchanged through decades of Listers, kept to its original brass fittings, its stained-glass fanlight, newel post, rosewood table in the entrance-room sitting on a Belgian carpet so silky it reflected the dim light.

The square newels, made of a dusky brown granite, were nearly as tall as she, and each was capped with a gold-leafed lamp.

At her elbow a blouse in pale green batiste rag remnant, pearl buttoned, draped the newel.

It had much to say of Morton Church: of the saddle - back tower and the strange beasts at the south door, of the priest's chamber over the chancel, of the small newel - stair of oak carved with angels by which it was reached, and the black - letter books in the chamber.

He came back to the door and knelt on the threshold and looked along the edges of that and the newel stair, then ran down and pored over the chancel floor.

Merchandise lay in heaps, haystacks, mountains: brocades, lounge-chairs, carriage-wheels, epergnes and chandeliers, tureens, mattresses, iron lawn-dogs and Parian birdbaths, billiard-tables and liquor-cabinets, bedsteads and stair newels, rolled rugs and marble mantelpieces .

The newel posts were carved totems, beaked, dawed, ant fierce of expression.

He'd gained his stride, newel to alcove, back to the newel post punctuated by abrupt puffs of smoke, looking out the front door incidentally.

His left leg had given way and when he had tried to reach the newel post for support, he found he could only lift his arm a few inches.

She turned and walked away, and didn't see his legs buckle, or the way his hand shot out to grip the newel post as the truth of what she'd tossed in his face struck him like a fist in the heart.

When Dylan put one hand on the newel post at the bottom of the stairs, he experienced again the predator's psychic spoor, the same that he had found upon the beer can, as clear to him as a fugitive's unique scent is unmistakable to a bloodhound.

She braced a hand on the newel post as she tried to get through the fog in her brain to think.