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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-Romance *nucale, from Latin nux "nut." The meaning "post at the top or bottom of a staircase" is from 1833.
upright post rising at the foot of a stairway, at its landings, or at its top. These posts usually serve as anchors for handrails. Often the stringboards, which cover and connect the ends of the steps, are framed into the newels. Made of the same substance as the stairway itself-wood, stone, or metal-the newel may be simple and functional, as in most contemporary examples, or highly ornamental, as in the Elizabethan or Jacobean styles.