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.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
I'm telling you, the novelty is wearing thin and the producers are too scared to push the envelope and move things up a notch, so this is the beginning of the end.
"Innovations such as the Huawei SuperSpectrum Sensor and SuperZoom Lens allow us to push the envelope of not just photography, but video-graphy as well - a frontier long overdue for disruption.
Summary: The actor says today there are only a handful of people trying to push the envelope
These guys (and gals!) push the envelope on everything they do and these new grips are no exception.
"We got told push the envelope; go there, we want to go there.
Dustin will no doubt push the envelope with his performance.
"It has the government's backing to bring to market innovative skyscrapers that push the envelope on engineering, design and push the envelope as iconic buildings in the global scheme of things."
The success of 2015 will be an opportunity to push the envelope in terms of the game and [a World Cup bid] would be a part of that."
By involving Sunny in its upcoming film, PNC plans to push the envelope. "We are now ready to switch things up and push the envelope with a cheeky, wicked look at the mating game and who better to join us in this than Sunny and Milap?
New York (AirGuide - Airline & Travel News) Fri, Feb 21, 2014 - This year marks another opportunity to push the envelope in sustainable design, writes Diane Pham, and 10 of the world's experts share their predictions for this year's green design sector.