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

Years later, after red tape from the city, structural challenges and reworking the plans to accommodate community concerns, the development will open this summer with 13 upscale townhouses. Carisa Crawford Chappell,, "As congregations shrink, Chicago churches see new life as homes, apartments and condos," 11 June 2019 Perhaps one emerging player in the housing situation can avoid some of that debate, if not the bureaucratic red tape: churches. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Recent housing, homeless developments give little cause for optimism," 7 June 2019 The last group can be dealt with fairly with little red tape if there is a political will to do so., "Why Medicaid work requirements could help persuade more states to expand coverage," 17 May 2018 Meanwhile there’s another significant milestone in Mr. Trump’s successful effort to restrain Washington’s production of red tape. James Freeman, WSJ, "Make Washington Small Again," 12 Apr. 2019 Officials lowered fees and cut red tape, promising to issue permits within a week of application, despite criticism that doing so could result in homes being rebuilt in fire-prone areas. San Francisco Chronicle, "Susan Gorin aches to fast-forward to well past next year — when she once again has a home on what is now an ashy lot.," 5 Apr. 2018 Children on Medicaid with complex medical conditions face unnecessary challenges getting access to essential care from out-of-state clinicians and hospitals, largely because of red tape in the process of enrolling providers into the Medicaid system. Nick Manetto, STAT, "Medicaid’s unnecessary barriers delay care for children with complex needs," 1 May 2018 The business environment remains mired in red tape, with bureaucracy tying up commercial investment plans sometimes for decades. Nektaria Stamouli, WSJ, "Greek Bailout Ends, But Underlying Problems Remain," 21 Aug. 2018 Her old job involved a lot of bureaucracy and red tape, Ms. Marichal said. Anne Kadet, WSJ, "Yes They Can! Program Boosts Number of Women Construction Workers," 12 Feb. 2019

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

14 Jun 2019

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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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