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 Navient lawsuit has been mired in bureaucratic red tape as the Department of Education, headed by Betsy DeVos, has been unwilling to help the CFPB with their lawsuit . Ken Sweet, The Seattle Times, "APNewsBreak: Nation’s top student loan official resigns," 28 Aug. 2018 Last summer, Washington — an international capital of red tape — hosted its first public workshop, called Form-a-Palooza, to redesign city forms. Michaelle Bond,, "10 billion hours of paperwork!? Philadelphia, other cities aim to simplify those forms," 18 May 2018 Internet access is patchy and slow; roads and classrooms can be surprisingly shabby; a tangle of red tape restricts service industries; and under Mrs Merkel the retirement age has fallen for some and will soon be lower than in France. The Economist, "Germany is becoming more open and diverse," 14 Apr. 2018 But there’s nothing unusual about a new cabinet secretary coming to office inclined to favor a different policy direction, soliciting support from other agencies to bolster his views, disagreeing with staff, or cutting through red tape. Larry Neumeister, The Seattle Times, "Judge won’t delay census citizenship question trial," 26 Oct. 2018 Cutting red tape now instead of after the franchise is awarded helps. Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times, "It’s in nobody’s interests to delay the NHL to Seattle beyond 2020, so let’s give them no reason to," 8 Oct. 2018 The staffing issues cap a cumbersome process that is adding red tape to U.S. manufacturing even as the Trump administration boasts of its deregulation efforts. David J. Lynch,, "Flood of U.S. companies seek relief on tariffs," 20 June 2018 When stocks were hitting record highs earlier this year, President Trump's market-friendly, profit-boosting tax cuts and push to slash business red tape were cited as key reasons for the surge. Adam Shell, USA TODAY, "Trump Rally hits roadblock as Wall Street rebels against tariffs, tweet storms," 3 Apr. 2018 Then, Pence and the National Space Council on Feb. 21 outlined more recommendations to streamline regulations for space launches to ease the red tape facing American commercial space companies. Tariq Malik,, "National Space Council Will Deliver Space-Junk Plan to Trump, VP Pence Says," 16 Apr. 2018

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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Statistics for red tape

Last Updated

8 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for red tape

The first known use of red tape was in 1736

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on red tape

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with red tape

Spanish Central: Translation of red tape

Nglish: Translation of red tape for Spanish Speakers

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