In the simplest terms, the modulus of elasticity (MOE) measures a wood’s stiffness, and is a good overall indicator of its strength.
Technically it’s a measurement of the ratio of stress placed upon the wood compared to the strain (deformation) that the wood exhibits along its length. MOE is expressed in pounds-force per square inch (lbf/in2) or gigapaschals (GPa). This number is given for wood that has been dried to a 12% moisture content, unless otherwise noted.
In practical terms, the number itself isn’t all that meaningful, but it becomes useful to use in comparison with other woods. For instance, Hickory is known to have excellent strength properties among domestic species in the US, and has a MOE of 2,160,000 lbf/in2 (14.90 GPa). In comparison, Red Oak is another well-known wood used in cabinetry and furniture, and has a MOE of 1,820,000 lbf/in2 (12.50 GPa).