What does "Red tape" refer to?

  • I liked the other answers as well, why did the authors delete them?
    – Wadih M.
    Commented Sep 9, 2010 at 17:15

1 Answer 1


Definition: Official routine or procedure marked by excessive complexity which results in delay or inaction .

Example: You would not believe the red tape involved in getting the required permits.

Origin: From the red tape formerly used to bind legal documents in England

First Known Use: 1736

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  • I wonder if ribbon cutting (as in opening a building) is in reference to red tape...
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 9, 2010 at 16:24
  • @burnt_hand: I can't imagine there being any kind of authoritative source on this, but I'd guess it's much more akin to cutting the ribbon on a gift package.
    – moioci
    Commented Sep 14, 2010 at 5:49

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