red tape


Definition of red tape 

: official routine or procedure marked by excessive complexity which results in delay or inaction

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 space is filled with cool graffiti art, a monumental curved bar, dramatic light fixtures, and a 50-foot expanse of red tape meant to evoke feelings about government bureaucracy. Adele Chapin, Condé Nast Traveler, "The 10 Best Rooftop Bars in Washington, D.C.," 12 July 2018 Báez’s story — one of personal tragedy, made worse by a lack of opportunities and bureaucratic red tape — has become the human face of the Puerto Rican influx after Hurricane María. Bianca Padró Ocasio,, "These Puerto Ricans who fled Hurricane María's destruction built a community at a Super 8 in Kissimmee. Now, they have to leave it.," 27 June 2018 The slow and faltering bathroom rollouts raise questions about whether logistical problems and red tape are contributing to Los Angeles' homelessness crisis, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that have started to flow for new programs. Gale Holland,, "It took more than a decade to open public bathrooms on skid row. After three months, they're already gone," 29 May 2018 The red tape that ensued was hard to believe, even for the DMV. Michael R. Pompeo,, "Today: How Thailand’s Lost Boys Were Found," 3 July 2018 Trump was elected on the promise of reducing red tape and regulations for businesses and the EPA has sought to scale back rules on several major industries. Evan Halper,, "California joins 16 other states and sues to halt Trump's plan to roll back vehicle emission standards," 1 May 2018 But huge logistical challenges remain, and whether the U.S. government can manage to clear away the red tape, confusion and seeming lack of coordination and make the deadline remains to be seen. Morgan Lee And Julie Watson,, "Frustration, heartbreak for migrant parents looking for kids," 28 June 2018 According to Filippone, Medicare footed most of the costs, but Gazella was cutting through red tape to get the VA to cover what was left. Georeen Tanner, Fox News, "Always Faithful: Marine raises thousands of dollars for vet he just met," 17 May 2018 The package was backed by Republicans as a way to free companies from red tape, and by some Democrats as a way guarantee some basic rights to gig-economy workers. The Economist, "Run, TaskRabbit, run: July 2030," 5 July 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

15 Nov 2018

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

: 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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