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[see-ling] /ˈsi lɪŋ/
the overhead interior surface of a room.
the top limit imposed by law on the amount of money that can be charged or spent or the quantity of goods that can be produced or sold.
  1. the maximum altitude from which the earth can be seen on a particular day, usually equal to the distance between the earth and the base of the lowest cloud bank.
  2. Also called absolute ceiling. the maximum altitude at which a particular aircraft can operate under specified conditions.
Meteorology. the height above ground level of the lowest layer of clouds that cover more than half of the sky.
a lining applied for structural reasons to a framework, especially in the interior surfaces of a ship or boat.
Also called ceiling piece. Theater. the ceiling or top of an interior set, made of cloth, a flat, or two or more flats hinged together.
the act or work of a person who makes or finishes a ceiling.
vaulting, as in a medieval church.
hit the ceiling, Informal. to become enraged:
When he saw the amount of the bill, he hit the ceiling.
Origin of ceiling
1350-1400, for def 7; Middle English; see ceil, -ing1
Related forms
ceilinged, adjective
subceiling, noun
unceilinged, adjective
underceiling, noun
Can be confused
ceiling, sealing.


[seel] /sil/
verb (used with object)
to overlay (the ceiling of a building or room) with wood, plaster, etc.
to provide with a ceiling.
1400-50; late Middle English celen to cover, to panel < ? Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ceiling
  • The living room now glows with new wood floors and a lighter, less-obtrusive shade of paint on the ceiling beams and trim.
  • Raising the ceiling helped transform this room into a natural gathering place more.
  • The timber baron sits behind a desk of ebony, in a palisander chair, surrounded by palisander walls and ceiling and floor.
  • Rays of sunlight filter through a grated window, casting a honeyed glow on the room's curved, rough-hewn walls and high ceiling.
  • Walk catwalks in central atrium to your room: floor-to-ceiling windows, sepia artwork, eco-friendly soap dispensers.
  • There is nothing else in the room-except a bare light bulb on the ceiling, well out of reach.
  • Every room is about twice the size it seems to need to be, and every ceiling is triple-height.
  • He had some of his special abstract art pinned on the walls of his room and on the ceiling.
  • The main sitting room had windows along one side that went from floor to ceiling, and they could be tilted open for cleaning.
  • The federal debt ceiling debate is already complicating life for state and local governments.
British Dictionary definitions for ceiling


the inner upper surface of a room
  1. an upper limit, such as one set by regulation on prices or wages
  2. (as modifier): ceiling prices
the upper altitude to which an aircraft can climb measured under specified conditions See also service ceiling, absolute ceiling
(meteorol) the highest level in the atmosphere from which the earth's surface is visible at a particular time, usually the base of a cloud layer
a wooden or metal surface fixed to the interior frames of a vessel for rigidity
Word Origin
C14: of uncertain origin


verb (transitive)
to line (a ceiling) with plaster, boarding, etc
to provide with a ceiling
Word Origin
C15 celen, perhaps back formation from ceiling
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ceiling

mid-14c., celynge, "act of paneling a room," noun formed (with -ing) from Middle English verb ceil "put a cover or ceiling over," later "cover (walls) with wainscoting, panels, etc." (early 15c.); probably from Middle French celer "to conceal," also "cover with paneling" (12c.), from Latin celare (see cell). Probably influenced by Latin caelum "heaven, sky" (see celestial).

Extended to the paneling itself from late 14c. The meaning "top surface of a room" is attested by 1530s. Figurative sense "upper limit" is from 1934. Colloquial figurative phrase hit the ceiling "lose one's temper, get explosively angry" attested by 1908; earlier it meant "to fail" (by 1900, originally U.S. college slang). Glass ceiling in the figurative sense of "invisible barrier that prevents women from advancing" in management, etc., is attested from 1988.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for ceiling



An upper limit: The Gov put a two-billiondollar ceiling on office expenses

Related Terms

hit the ceiling

[1930s+; probably fr ceiling, ''the highest an airplane can go,'' which is attested from 1917]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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ceiling in the Bible

the covering (1 Kings 7:3,7) of the inside roof and walls of a house with planks of wood (2 Chr. 3:5; Jer. 22:14). Ceilings were sometimes adorned with various ornaments in stucco, gold, silver, gems, and ivory. The ceilings of the temple and of Solomon's palace are described 1 Kings 6:9, 15; 7:3; 2 Chr. 3:5,9.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with ceiling
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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