Definition of paper in English:



  • 1mass noun Material manufactured in thin sheets from the pulp of wood or other fibrous substances, used for writing, drawing, or printing on, or as wrapping material.

    ‘a sheet of paper’
    as modifier ‘a paper napkin’
    count noun ‘toffee papers’
    • ‘Traditionally, a sheet of paper was used to cast or register a vote.’
    • ‘She scribbles frantically on sheets of paper, then hunts through desk drawers for more writing material.’
    • ‘At a push, the bag itself could be constructed from a sheet of paper or small carrier bag tied up with an elastic band or bit of string.’
    • ‘The first thing to buy is a large sheet of white thick paper or thin card, which you gently bend into a right angled curve.’
    • ‘Taking out a sheet of paper with lots of writing on it, Daria nodded, took a deep breath, and began her story.’
    • ‘The supervisor nods and continues to make annotations on a sheet of paper.’
    • ‘Any letter that included more than one sheet of thin paper was likely to go missing.’
    • ‘I noticed a sheet of thin, unlined paper beside the case that held the incredibly deadly drug.’
    • ‘He continued to stare blankly at the sheet of paper until Loflen brought him out of his daze.’
    • ‘He took out the bacon from the skillet and placed it on three sheets of absorbent paper towel.’
    • ‘He pulled up the sheets of thin paper in front of his head as he squinted to read the small print.’
    • ‘I angrily tore off the sheet of paper from my plain notebook, and reached for a tissue, blowing my nose.’
    • ‘Then he pulled out a clean sheet of his stationary paper and took a quill.’
    • ‘Inside was a sheet of onionskin typing paper, the kind that's slippery but crinkles.’
    • ‘I'd get lots of sheets of A4 paper, fold them over, staple them and make an instant book, write my story and draw covers.’
    • ‘The most readily available method for pressing paper sheets is in or under a large book.’
    • ‘Slowly and carefully, I broke the seal on the envelope and pulled out a sheet of thin paper.’
    • ‘The printed paper sheets were pasted onto canvas mounts for display.’
    • ‘She slid her nail along the top to open it and pulled out a single sheet of paper with a drawing and a sentence hastily scribbled along the bottom.’
    • ‘Then I wrote down the necessary directions to my place on a sheet of paper from that notepad.’
    writing paper, notepaper
    wrapper, wrapping
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Wallpaper.
      ‘the walls were damp—paper hung away in long strips’
      • ‘If the wallpaper patch is prepasted paper, soak it in warm water for 30 seconds.’
      • ‘Wallpaper consists of a backing, ground coat, applied ink, and sometimes paste on the backing used to adhere the paper to the wall.’
      • ‘A paper-hanging brush is about 25 cm wide, and is for smoothing bubbles out of freshly hung paper.’
      wallpaper, wallcovering
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2
      short for cigarette paper
  • 2usually papersA sheet of paper with something written or printed on it.

    ‘he riffled through the papers on his desk’
    • ‘Well, they're probably excited they don't have to write any papers right now for their professors.’
    • ‘Other sources of information can include old documents, important papers or personal correspondence.’
    • ‘I still haven't investigated the computer labs and continue to e-mail and write papers from the comfort of my own home.’
    • ‘As proof of physical abuse, the Government demands to see police paperwork, court papers or a medical report.’
    • ‘While studying at SFU, Terry would write his papers on cancer research.’
    • ‘His first book on folklore, Custom and Myth, did not appear until 1884, but contained papers written and printed much earlier.’
    piece of paper, scrap of paper, sheet, note
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 A newspaper.
      ‘the story made the front page of the local paper’
      • ‘Nearly all the papers have eye-witness reports which stated that he was ‘hotly pursued’ by plain clothes police officers.’
      • ‘And every Monday morning he would scan the papers for reports on penalty kicks around the country.’
      • ‘Newspapers say they distribute papers where they sell.’
      • ‘Before Christmas, the papers reported that children wouldn't be able to see the Harry Potter movie in its first week because so many office parties had made block bookings.’
      • ‘In this case, the story attracted enough national media attention that local people had access to alternative perspectives by examining the national papers.’
      • ‘Hardly a week goes by without the papers reporting that a new witch has been found.’
      • ‘All the day's newspapers, weekly periodicals and local papers are available at the library and any member of the public can call in to read them.’
      • ‘The papers also reported his claim to have had a bogus cocaine habit put around by a government press secretary.’
      • ‘The last turn of the century marked the peak of the newspaper boom, 2,600 papers across the country.’
      • ‘New York had nine daily newspapers then, plus papers in Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey, and three wire services.’
      • ‘‘Our intention to build a skatepark has been reported in the papers since January,’ he said.’
      • ‘Many will have their own local memories of Bill and some will no doubt centre on getting the daily newspapers or the Sunday papers after Mass.’
      • ‘But will the foreign papers be objective in reporting about India?’
      • ‘Strikes by journalists on local papers in the north of England have spread from one title to another.’
      • ‘While all the national papers report that Gore will be conceding any day now, the online debate rages on.’
      • ‘Some supermarket tabloids outsell the local papers.’
      • ‘Much more important is what papers say, report and headline in the years between elections.’
      • ‘These findings provide a prescription for future newspaper content if papers are to gain young readers now and keep them in the future.’
      • ‘Besides the general-circulation papers, newspapers continued to flourish as agents of various special communities.’
      • ‘The editors of the three Scottish papers will report to McGurk day to day.’
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2papers Personal documents.
      ‘the personal papers of major political figures’
      • ‘No matter how stupid a question or trivial an issue, the denial of full access to all files, working papers, memos, personal notes and so on will be treated as a cover-up.’
      • ‘Police have now relented after the suspect agreed to surrender his identity papers and report regularly to police.’
      • ‘The Hoover Institution Archives contains the personal papers of many of the past century's most notable public figures.’
      • ‘The pile consisted mostly of personal papers, Ken's will and such.’
      • ‘A police officer with expert knowledge of Asian culture spent the weekend examining papers found at her home for clues.’
      • ‘They reconstructed the history out of personal papers, official reports, and interviews.’
      • ‘Shred personal or financial papers; archive long-term records, such as tax returns.’
      documents, certificates, forms, letters, files, deeds, records, dossiers, diaries, archives, legal papers, paperwork, documentation
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3papers Documents attesting identity; credentials.
      ‘two men stopped us and asked us for our papers’
      • ‘The Russians discovered, among other documents, false identity papers, including a Sudanese passport that he sometimes used.’
      • ‘He carried no papers or proof of identity, as such documents would have endangered his family who remained behind, if he had been captured.’
      • ‘Journalists on strike at a Czech television station in the capital, Prague, have been forced to present their identification papers to police.’
      • ‘They could not immediately identify the boy, whom they described as too young to have official identity papers.’
      • ‘Some of the fugitive workers obtained new identification papers using an alias, making it that much more difficult to track them down.’
      identification papers, identification documents, identity card, id, credentials, bona fides
      View synonyms
    4. 2.4 A government report or policy document.
      ‘a recently leaked cabinet paper’
      • ‘Detailed policy papers, letters and ministerial submissions are taped and listened to late into the evening, absorbed at double the normal speed.’
      • ‘Policy papers, however clever, change nothing by themselves.’
      • ‘Evidence from clients all over the country is accumulated, analysed and used for parliamentary briefing papers and reports.’
      • ‘Numerous policy papers were adopted, which had some progressive sections in them.’
      • ‘Based on that work stage three of the process will see the production of a series of policy papers setting out various options’
      • ‘It was understood public services minister Andy Kerr had a deal with the union leadership for support of the policy papers, but that unravelled over the past ten days.’
      • ‘Those reports - those working papers, again, as far as I understand it, were delivered at the command level.’
      • ‘I think that both the report and the strategy paper are positive documents for Bulgaria.’
      • ‘In their policy papers on universities both Mr Dawkins and Dr Nelson treated size as an important issue.’
      • ‘Politics is more than policy papers and polls and strategy.’
      documents, certificates, forms, letters, files, deeds, records, dossiers, diaries, archives, legal papers, paperwork, documentation
      View synonyms
    5. 2.5as modifier Denoting something that is officially documented but has no real existence.
      ‘a paper profit’
      • ‘I don't mind if someone makes a paper profit on his council house - it only gives them a deposit for their next house anyway.’
      • ‘Once you've completed the sale that paper profit becomes real lolly that you can go out and spend or buy even more shares.’
      • ‘Thirdly, save for its existence as a paper entry, it is unclear what assets are in the Business Reserve Account or in whose names.’
      • ‘If you cash them in now you turn what is still a paper loss into a real loss.’
      • ‘Equity is a paper profit, it doesn't exist unless you sell your property and someone gives you a cheque.’
  • 3British A set of examination questions to be answered at one session.

    ‘we had to sit a three-hour paper’
    • ‘He said the department would supervise the test from the distribution of question papers to the evaluation of the answer sheets at Faridkot.’
    • ‘The Cabinet Office report says papers are delivered after exams should have been held, questions are unsolvable and there are often errors in the marking.’
    • ‘As a result no questions about the text appeared in the English module exam two weeks ago and students were withdrawn without sitting the paper.’
    • ‘Exam questions on ethical issues began to appear on GCSE papers - and these were short answer questions, where there is no room to develop an argument.’
    • ‘Staging exams is a lengthy and costly process which requires a team to agree the questions and set the papers, people to check and review them and markers to correct them.’
    • ‘Becoming familiar with the pattern of the question paper helps overcome the numbing fear of examinations.’
    • ‘The body found that the standard of question papers had been fair, the conduct of examinations was regular, and the standard of marking and internal moderation was good.’
    • ‘I was lucky - my most difficult topic had the easiest question compared to past papers.’
    • ‘To add more insult to injury, my two Computing teachers were not even in today, and it was proving quite a task to find me the question paper.’
    • ‘Pupils studying for standard grade exams need the papers as soon as possible, because they will be sitting preliminary exams in December or just after Christmas.’
    • ‘Finally, remember to answer the question on the paper and not the one that you were revising for the night before!’
    • ‘I need to sit four papers (three hour exams) to graduate with the Masters, one paper per subject.’
    • ‘The alternative is to go through as many past exam papers as you can get your hands on and make sure you can answer ever question in those papers.’
    • ‘Question 4 was more like what we had been expecting, and appeared to be in the form of a standard Section A question from papers gone by.’
    • ‘While teachers and pupils are asked to retain question papers following the annual exam diet in May and June, there are rarely enough copies for every pupil.’
    exam, examination, test
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1 The written answers to examination questions.
      ‘you need to test your students, mark their papers, and place them in the right class’
      • ‘However, the examiners who mark their papers will not be made aware of their circumstances, in order to preserve the integrity of the exams process.’
      • ‘The examiners who evaluate the answer papers should be given their remuneration on time.’
      • ‘The number of answer papers identifying all the scarecrows correctly was higher than usual.’
      • ‘The Department of Education and Science is also preparing to advertise for examiners to correct the papers to ensure the exams go ahead in June as planned.’
      • ‘York students have seen weeks of revision go down the drain after a blundering examination board lost their papers.’
  • 4An essay or dissertation, especially one read at an academic lecture or seminar or published in an academic journal.

    ‘he published a highly original paper on pattern formation’
    • ‘The event will see a record number of more than 300 workshops, papers and poster sessions, grouped into 12 broad themes.’
    • ‘The papers in these sessions address these questions from three different directions.’
    • ‘Thursday had the best of the paper sessions from my point of view.’
    • ‘The papers in this session have addressed several of the important issues facing the negotiators.’
    • ‘This paper examines the transition between the short-term and the long-term responses to water status.’
    • ‘I am giving my paper in the first session on the last day, which is the day after the conference dinner.’
    • ‘We examined references of relevant papers and contacted experts in the subject.’
    • ‘Simultaneous translation will be available during conference sessions, so papers may be presented in French or in English.’
    • ‘This paper examines Bedouin attitudes and practices relating to the evil eye as a cause of misfortune.’
    • ‘This is an edited version of a paper examining the difficulties of DNA evidence.’
    • ‘She has presented papers and sessions on prevention of music-related injuries and biomechanics of piano technique.’
    • ‘This paper examines that question by considering the acute phase of care provided by the public sector.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, due to the large number of papers presented at most sessions, hardly any discussion took place.’
    • ‘Their role at conferences, for example, can span everything from presenting papers to fielding questions in open conference sessions.’
    • ‘The paper attempts to answer some of the key questions necessary for reform.’
    • ‘In this issue, we present the final two papers from that session.’
    • ‘The object was to make it easier to assign papers to appropriate sessions.’
    • ‘Five more papers were presented in the morning session and four papers, all illustrated with lantern slides, were given in the afternoon session.’
    • ‘Three papers have examined mineral localization in the needles of larch species.’
    • ‘I presented my paper at the first session and, relieved it was over, took the nearest free seat.’
    essay, article, composition, monograph, thesis, work, dissertation, treatise, study, report, analysis, tract, critique, exegesis, review, disquisition, discourse, piece of writing
    View synonyms
  • 5theatrical slang mass noun Free passes of admission to a theatre or other entertainment.

    voucher, chit, slip, ticket, coupon, pass
    View synonyms


[with object]
  • 1Apply wallpaper to (a wall or room)

    ‘the walls were papered in a Regency stripe’
    • ‘The stylish look now is a room that's fully papered, especially with the new architectural textures.’
    • ‘The drawing room and dining areas are papered in Victorian style and have wooden floors and panelling.’
    • ‘The curator of the museum, has suggested that perhaps Frederick Linder, a painter and paperhanger, papered the walls in exchange for free rent.’
    • ‘The walls were papered in a wide variety of rather dated and unpleasant wall papers.’
    • ‘Currently the bedroom walls are magnolia above the dado rail, and papered beneath, with a subtle striped magnolia patterned wallpaper.’
    • ‘The entire room, as well as the adjoining powder room and bedroom, was papered in stark white.’
    • ‘The walls were papered in a pleasing floral print, a few comfortable chairs and a matching footstool were scattered about, and in the fireplace, a happy little blaze was flickering away.’
    • ‘The walls of this hall were papered with material that had a satin feeling to it.’
    • ‘The walls were papered in elegant blue wallpaper, and the floor was soft carpet.’
    • ‘Originally wood-panelled, the walls in the office have been papered in a lighter colour, and the room is furnished with modern, pale wood desk and table.’
    • ‘They both are papered with non-plastic type wallpaper.’
    • ‘He goes up to the flat and sees two workmen papering the walls.’
    • ‘A feature wall was papered in golden crushed vinyl wallpaper.’
    • ‘The walls were papered in a floral pattern and there was light jazz emitting from a hidden amplifier in the ceiling.’
    • ‘Furniture was purchased in Philadelphia, and the rooms were painted and papered in stylish bright colors such as Prussian blue, crimson, salmon, and yellow ochre.’
    • ‘And I already knew I could take radiators off walls to paint and paper behind them.’
    • ‘The walls were papered with delicate designs and rich reds.’
    • ‘It is papered, ceiling included, in pink floral Sanderson wallpaper.’
    • ‘The floor was laid with a thick burgundy carpet, the walls papered in pastel colours of cream and gold and peach.’
    • ‘The walls were papered in a light cream colour and two comfortable sofas were positioned neatly amongst the other items of furniture.’
    wallpaper, hang wallpaper on, line
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1paper something over Cover a hole or blemish with wallpaper.
      ‘interior panels can be of fairly basic wood that will be papered over’
      • ‘If you are papering over paint, first clean the walls with sugar soap to make sure the paper sticks.’
      • ‘I have never painted over wallpaper nor papered over wallpaper. I've had to remove both though.’
      • ‘Never paper over existing wallpaper that is not firmly adhering to the wall surface.’
      • ‘Usually you will not want to paint or paper over old wallpaper but will want to remove it instead.’
      • ‘The council have sent out plasterers but I send them away because I don't want it replastered and the cracks papered over.’
    2. 1.2paper something over Disguise an awkward problem instead of resolving it.
      ‘the unions tried to paper over their differences’
      • ‘But there are concerns that there will still be unfilled vacancies, and that schools are resorting to supply cover and swapping staff from subject to subject to paper over cracks.’
      • ‘He said that they got lots of complaints that they were papering over his faults and mistakes and glorifying his presidency.’
      • ‘But the gaping holes in the U.S. stance are being largely papered over in news coverage.’
      • ‘The damage they have done to this country's sense of itself as a moral force for good, however, cannot be papered over with soaring speeches about freedom and liberty.’
      • ‘In truth, more money in the teachers' pay packets is only papering over the cracks, not attacking and solving the real problems.’
      camouflage, conceal, hide, cover up, make inconspicuous, mask, screen, shroud, veil, cloak
      View synonyms
  • 2theatrical slang Fill (a theatre) by giving out free tickets.

    ‘surely the theatre could at least have papered the house if the box office was looking so poor’


  • be not worth the paper it is written on

    • Be of no value or validity despite having been written down.

      ‘his tenancy agreement may not now be worth the paper it's written on’
      • ‘Everybody emerges with something; the question is whether it is worth the paper it is written on.’
      • ‘You only have to look at the source of this ‘research’ to realise it's probably not worth the paper it's written on.’
      • ‘He is an advocate of daily ‘to do’ lists, but warns that if a list is not managed correctly it is not worth the paper it's written on.’
      • ‘The legislation currently in place is not worth the paper it's written on… you can find out very little about a person that might be a risk,’ she told the Waterford News & Star.’
      • ‘Any document that he signs from now on clearly is not worth the paper it's written on.’
      • ‘We refuse to sign some agreement that's probably not worth the paper it's written on.’
  • make the papers

    • Be written about in newspapers and thus become famous.

      ‘he thought he'd jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and make the papers’
      • ‘If something happens out in the middle of the country or to somebody who's not so affluent, it doesn't make the papers.’
      • ‘She made the papers after her alleged racist remarks to diners at a New York restaurant.’
      • ‘When a tourist gets robbed in Madrid that doesn't make the papers.’
      • ‘In August that year, Prof. Warwick made the papers again claiming that watching television can actually increase your IQ.’
      • ‘The incidence of maternal morbidity is now so low that it makes the papers rather than popular novels.’
  • on paper

    • 1In writing.

      ‘Portuguese, although similar to Spanish on paper, is pronounced completely differently’
      • ‘Children can concentrate and put together their experience and their future on paper.’
      • ‘Her solicitor Fiona Burrill said once the new appeal goes ahead would all be done on paper but could take weeks to get a decision.’
      • ‘I mean, if you really have an idea, you ought to be able to put it down on paper and words.’
      • ‘There were so many things that I wanted to put down on paper; it was so hard to sum Cormac up in a few verses.’
      • ‘He always had amazing mental arithmetic skills but found it difficult to explain on paper how he got the correct answer.’
      • ‘In his free time he began a long exploration of country and feeling, traced in these works on paper.’
      • ‘Traditionally, pharmacies made claims for drug refunds on paper and claims took up to six months to process.’
      • ‘He's clever and thoughtful and pays attention to everything, and then has the knack of putting that down on paper.’
      • ‘I will lay out my reasons for this below, starting with the argument against, which is easier for me to get on paper as it were.’
      • ‘Of course Annie is his child whatever the law said or didn't say but it'll still be nice to have it down on paper and all official.’
      • ‘Speculation abounds, of the sort we dare not put down on paper lest we be accused of inciting unrest.’
      • ‘Until now I've never had the confidence to actually put it down on paper.’
      in writing, written down, in black and white, in print, on record
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1In theory rather than in reality.
        ‘the combatants were, on paper at least, evenly matched’
        • ‘The quarterback looks great on paper but in reality he didn't do anything special at all.’
        • ‘We were taken in detail, at least on paper, through the matters of which complaint was made.’
        • ‘It is trite to suggest that, on paper, Aberdeen's squad ought to be higher.’
        • ‘Gelli surely knew about all these practices and committees must have been set up only to exist on paper.’
        • ‘I wouldn't be surprised if in Russia the law looks good on paper, but, on the ground, it doesn't work.’
        • ‘Some things look good on paper but sound absolutely dreadful when said aloud.’
        • ‘The proposal for digging rain pits to store rainwater may look good on paper.’
        • ‘In reality, not on paper, the myriad elements that dictate our function in the world cannot be separated out.’
        • ‘It sounds on paper like intriguing stuff but the reality is another disappointment.’
        • ‘This current England team is, on paper, the best we have had for at least 35 years.’
        • ‘Public works immediately conjure up visions of roads and bridges that exist only on paper.’
        • ‘Spain, as usual, go into a tournament, with probably the best squad of players on paper.’
        • ‘If I'm being honest, then I don't think we are, on paper, as strong as we were last year but you never know.’
        • ‘I think people will enjoy seeing a different Otley even if only on paper.’
        • ‘One may say that this sounds good on paper, but does this really model what happens in reality?’
        • ‘It seemed a feasible plan on paper, to the top and back in a day and a half.’
        • ‘It all seems rather complicated on paper but pans out surprisingly well cinematically.’
        • ‘Scientists in Germany can now boast the fastest super computer in Europe - on paper at least.’
        • ‘She is one of those rare people who come across as very smart in person, not just on paper.’
        • ‘What looks like a rebuilding year on paper, is an optimistic one for team head coach Mike Renney.’
        in theory, theoretically, hypothetically, in the abstract, supposedly
        View synonyms


Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French papir, from Latin papyrus ‘paper-reed’ (see papyrus). The verb dates from the late 16th century.