push the envelope

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 (ĕn′və-lōp′, ŏn′-)
1. A flat paper container, especially for a letter, usually having a gummed flap.
2. Something that envelops; a wrapping.
3. Biology An enclosing structure or cover, such as a membrane or the outer coat of a virus.
4. The bag containing the gas in a balloon or airship.
5. The set of limitations within which a technological system, especially an aircraft, can perform safely and effectively.
6. Astronomy
a. A usually spherical region of interstellar matter surrounding a forming star and interacting with the star's gravitational and radiation fields.
b. The coma of a comet.
7. Mathematics A curve or surface that is tangent to every one of a family of curves or surfaces.
push the envelope
To exceed or try to exceed the existing limits of a discipline or activity.

[French enveloppe, from envelopper, to envelop, from Old French envoloper; see envelop.]
Usage Note: Some people dislike the pronunciation (ŏn′və-lōp′), arguing that it is pretentious for being pseudo-French and that it is unnecessary, since there is a perfectly acceptable Anglicized pronunciation, (ĕn′və-lōp′). But the pronunciation with (ŏn) is gaining in acceptability: in our 1992 survey, 30 percent of the Usage Panel used it exclusively, and another 9 percent used it occasionally; by 2011, 46 percent selected it as their preferred pronunciation. Both forms should be considered standard.
References in periodicals archive ?
Istithmar Hotels continues to push the envelope for luxury hotel sales in Manhattan.
And he points out that there is what he calls "a little bit of creative shear," as designers are trying to push the envelope, thinking five or so years ahead, while there are other constituents who are concerned with the associated risk, because risk requires resources, and if the risk doesn't come out in a positive way, then that necessitates a redo, which means even more resources.
We're really trying to push the envelope and increase conservation, increase recycling, and we're trying to integrate those with wastewater and I think it's going to result in better management,'' Erb said.
As humans seem wired to continually push the envelope, this has led to an expanded participation in New Age practices and from there to the old pagan religions of Druidism and Wicca, culminating at the extreme in Satanism.
and "The Crisis in Pubic Hair" do not hestiate to push the envelope on human sexuality, while "Letter to Dave Barry", "The Insatiable Meat Cleaver of Bette Davis", and "Letter to Ann Coulter" challenge other public figures in an eye-popping manner.