red tape


Definition of red tape

: official routine or procedure marked by excessive complexity which results in delay or inaction bureaucratic red tape … enterprisers that show how people across the Nation are coping (or not coping) with such problems as unemployment, the budget deficit and Government red tape.— John Weisman … pompous officials (often lowly clerks) in love with red tape who delight in obstructing the expedition of what should be simple procedures.— Norman W. Schur Initial plans became irretrievably mired in the red tape of building permissions.— Bella Pollen Their plan is simple enough and none too glamorous: create a Web site to help people cut through red tape; i.e., pay for parking tickets and so on.— Sarah Kerr

Examples of red tape in a Sentence

You would not believe the red tape involved in getting the required permits.
Recent Examples on the Web The building has had mold troubles, is shackled with historic protections, takes up most of a skinny lot that may, according to OUC, have contamination issues, and likely would entail a tsunami of red tape on the way to a new existence. Kevin Spear,, 19 June 2021 Had Moon done more since 2017 to cut red tape and make its easier for young entrepreneurs to access venture capital and take big risks, Korea might be generating millions of new high-paying jobs from the ground up. William Pesek, Forbes, 15 June 2021 The new program is also going through the Treasury, not HUD, and will likely be much less constrained by bureaucratic red tape, Ciardullo said. Chad Calder | Staff Writer,, 15 Jan. 2021 If left unchecked, the red tape will choke your vision — and the rest of your company. Lisa Bodell, Forbes, 26 June 2021 School district red tape made field access a problem. Mitch Stephens, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 May 2021 The CARES Act did establish a separate program to cover the self-employed—Pandemic Unemployment Assistance—but the red tape has been a nightmare: The program is administered by the states, which means fifty different sets of guidelines. William Deresiewicz, Harper's Magazine, 25 May 2021 What did happen was Operation Warp Speed, a concerted effort launched by the federal government last year to reduce red tape, not scientific rigor. Karen Pallarito,, 20 May 2021 Of all the reforms HFSC is cultivating, the red tape is a small but significant one. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, 23 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'red tape.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of red tape

1736, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for red tape

from the red tape formerly used to bind legal documents in England

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Time Traveler for red tape

Time Traveler

The first known use of red tape was in 1736

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Dictionary Entries Near red tape

red tail snapper

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Statistics for red tape

Last Updated

30 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Red tape.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Aug. 2021.

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More Definitions for red tape

red tape


English Language Learners Definition of red tape

disapproving : a series of actions or complicated tasks that seem unnecessary but that a government or organization requires you to do in order to get or do something

red tape


Kids Definition of red tape

: rules and regulations that seem unnecessary and prevent things from being done quickly and easily governmental red tape

More from Merriam-Webster on red tape

Nglish: Translation of red tape for Spanish Speakers


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