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 But not all of the geographic divisions align among the new maps distributed to the operations departments, which has led to worries among postal experts and mailing industry officials of a new level of red tape. Washington Post, "DeJoy’s latest USPS restructuring plan could increase bureaucracy and slow delivery, experts warn," 4 Mar. 2021 As France tries to figure out why its vaccination campaign launched so slowly, the answer lies partly in forests of red tape and the decision to prioritize vulnerable older people in nursing homes. Fox News, "French vaccine rollout slowed by red tape, focus on elderly," 10 Jan. 2021 But their future was tangled up in other kinds of red tape. Eleanor Cummins, Science, "Bats, museums, and viruses collide in this scientific love story," 4 Dec. 2020 That requires navigating through a myriad of red tape including the permission of countries, negotiating with local tribes in some cases and securing permits. Beth Burger, Star Tribune, "Ice cores that tell story of world's history are at risk," 21 Nov. 2020 When she finally was released seven months later, red tape delayed their reunification by another two months. New York Times, "Separated Families: A Legacy Biden Has Inherited From Trump," 1 Feb. 2021 For many employers, red tape and paperwork is the stressful downside of entrepreneurship — and that was before a global pandemic and economic downturn. Shannon Watson And John Perlich, Star Tribune, "State leaders must quickly fix pandemic tax bug," 28 Jan. 2021 But San Franciscans are starting to see how thick red tape hurts the city and are moving to cut it. Heather Knight,, "Red tape slashed? New legislation would prevent one person from blocking city projects," 10 Nov. 2020 But what the Space Force and Burt have signaled to the broader space community is that—if there's a better, more efficient way to do this, which cuts red tape for emerging commercial players—they're willing to listen. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: China unveils big rocket plans, SpaceX’s “secret” launch," 9 Oct. 2020

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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Statistics for red tape

Last Updated

8 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Red tape.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 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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