Definition of paper in US English:



  • 1Material 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 bag’
    • ‘He pulled up the sheets of thin paper in front of his head as he squinted to read the small print.’
    • ‘Traditionally, a sheet of paper was used to cast or register a vote.’
    • ‘He continued to stare blankly at the sheet of paper until Loflen brought him out of his daze.’
    • ‘I noticed a sheet of thin, unlined paper beside the case that held the incredibly deadly drug.’
    • ‘Taking out a sheet of paper with lots of writing on it, Daria nodded, took a deep breath, and began her story.’
    • ‘Inside was a sheet of onionskin typing paper, the kind that's slippery but crinkles.’
    • ‘Slowly and carefully, I broke the seal on the envelope and pulled out a sheet of thin paper.’
    • ‘Then he pulled out a clean sheet of his stationary paper and took a quill.’
    • ‘Any letter that included more than one sheet of thin paper was likely to go missing.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The most readily available method for pressing paper sheets is in or under a large book.’
    • ‘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 printed paper sheets were pasted onto canvas mounts for display.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I angrily tore off the sheet of paper from my plain notebook, and reached for a tissue, blowing my nose.’
    • ‘She scribbles frantically on sheets of paper, then hunts through desk drawers for more writing material.’
    • ‘He took out the bacon from the skillet and placed it on three sheets of absorbent paper towel.’
    • ‘The supervisor nods and continues to make annotations on a sheet of paper.’
    writing paper, notepaper
    wrapper, wrapping
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Wallpaper.
      • ‘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 piece or sheet of paper with something written or drawn 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.’
    • ‘While studying at SFU, Terry would write his papers on cancer research.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Much more important is what papers say, report and headline in the years between elections.’
      • ‘But will the foreign papers be objective in reporting about India?’
      • ‘Some supermarket tabloids outsell the local papers.’
      • ‘Nearly all the papers have eye-witness reports which stated that he was ‘hotly pursued’ by plain clothes police officers.’
      • ‘The editors of the three Scottish papers will report to McGurk day to day.’
      • ‘Strikes by journalists on local papers in the north of England have spread from one title to another.’
      • ‘Hardly a week goes by without the papers reporting that a new witch has been found.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Besides the general-circulation papers, newspapers continued to flourish as agents of various special communities.’
      • ‘The last turn of the century marked the peak of the newspaper boom, 2,600 papers across the country.’
      • ‘And every Monday morning he would scan the papers for reports on penalty kicks around the country.’
      • ‘In this case, the story attracted enough national media attention that local people had access to alternative perspectives by examining the national papers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘While all the national papers report that Gore will be conceding any day now, the online debate rages on.’
      • ‘These findings provide a prescription for future newspaper content if papers are to gain young readers now and keep them in the future.’
      • ‘The papers also reported his claim to have had a bogus cocaine habit put around by a government press secretary.’
      • ‘Newspapers say they distribute papers where they sell.’
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2papers Significant or important documents belonging to a person.
      ‘the personal papers of major political figures’
      • ‘The Hoover Institution Archives contains the personal papers of many of the past century's most notable public figures.’
      • ‘Shred personal or financial papers; archive long-term records, such as tax returns.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They reconstructed the history out of personal papers, official reports, and interviews.’
      • ‘Police have now relented after the suspect agreed to surrender his identity papers and report regularly to police.’
      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’
      • ‘They could not immediately identify the boy, whom they described as too young to have official identity papers.’
      • ‘He carried no papers or proof of identity, as such documents would have endangered his family who remained behind, if he had been captured.’
      • ‘Some of the fugitive workers obtained new identification papers using an alias, making it that much more difficult to track them down.’
      • ‘Journalists on strike at a Czech television station in the capital, Prague, have been forced to present their identification papers to police.’
      • ‘The Russians discovered, among other documents, false identity papers, including a Sudanese passport that he sometimes used.’
      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’
      • ‘Politics is more than policy papers and polls and strategy.’
      • ‘In their policy papers on universities both Mr Dawkins and Dr Nelson treated size as an important issue.’
      • ‘Evidence from clients all over the country is accumulated, analysed and used for parliamentary briefing papers and reports.’
      • ‘I think that both the report and the strategy paper are positive documents for Bulgaria.’
      • ‘Those reports - those working papers, again, as far as I understand it, were delivered at the command level.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Numerous policy papers were adopted, which had some progressive sections in them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Based on that work stage three of the process will see the production of a series of policy papers setting out various options’
      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’
      • ‘Once you've completed the sale that paper profit becomes real lolly that you can go out and spend or buy even more shares.’
      • ‘If you cash them in now you turn what is still a paper loss into a real loss.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Equity is a paper profit, it doesn't exist unless you sell your property and someone gives you a cheque.’
      • ‘Thirdly, save for its existence as a paper entry, it is unclear what assets are in the Business Reserve Account or in whose names.’
  • 3An essay or thesis, especially one read at an academic lecture or seminar or published in an academic journal.

    • ‘She has presented papers and sessions on prevention of music-related injuries and biomechanics of piano technique.’
    • ‘Simultaneous translation will be available during conference sessions, so papers may be presented in French or in English.’
    • ‘This is an edited version of a paper examining the difficulties of DNA evidence.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, due to the large number of papers presented at most sessions, hardly any discussion took place.’
    • ‘Five more papers were presented in the morning session and four papers, all illustrated with lantern slides, were given in the afternoon session.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Three papers have examined mineral localization in the needles of larch species.’
    • ‘The event will see a record number of more than 300 workshops, papers and poster sessions, grouped into 12 broad themes.’
    • ‘Thursday had the best of the paper sessions from my point of view.’
    • ‘The object was to make it easier to assign papers to appropriate sessions.’
    • ‘In this issue, we present the final two papers from that session.’
    • ‘Their role at conferences, for example, can span everything from presenting papers to fielding questions in open conference sessions.’
    • ‘The papers in this session have addressed several of the important issues facing the negotiators.’
    • ‘This paper examines that question by considering the acute phase of care provided by the public sector.’
    • ‘I presented my paper at the first session and, relieved it was over, took the nearest free seat.’
    • ‘This paper examines Bedouin attitudes and practices relating to the evil eye as a cause of misfortune.’
    • ‘The paper attempts to answer some of the key questions necessary for reform.’
    • ‘We examined references of relevant papers and contacted experts in the subject.’
    • ‘The papers in these sessions address these questions from three different directions.’
    essay, article, composition, monograph, thesis, work, dissertation, treatise, study, report, analysis, tract, critique, exegesis, review, disquisition, discourse, piece of writing
    View synonyms
  • 4theatrical slang Free passes of admission to a theater 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 drawing room and dining areas are papered in Victorian style and have wooden floors and panelling.’
    • ‘The walls were papered in a floral pattern and there was light jazz emitting from a hidden amplifier in the ceiling.’
    • ‘It is papered, ceiling included, in pink floral Sanderson wallpaper.’
    • ‘Currently the bedroom walls are magnolia above the dado rail, and papered beneath, with a subtle striped magnolia patterned wallpaper.’
    • ‘The walls of this hall were papered with material that had a satin feeling to it.’
    • ‘The entire room, as well as the adjoining powder room and bedroom, was papered in stark white.’
    • ‘The walls were papered in a wide variety of rather dated and unpleasant wall papers.’
    • ‘The walls were papered in elegant blue wallpaper, and the floor was soft carpet.’
    • ‘The walls were papered with delicate designs and rich reds.’
    • ‘And I already knew I could take radiators off walls to paint and paper behind them.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The curator of the museum, has suggested that perhaps Frederick Linder, a painter and paperhanger, papered the walls in exchange for free rent.’
    • ‘They both are papered with non-plastic type wallpaper.’
    • ‘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 were papered in a light cream colour and two comfortable sofas were positioned neatly amongst the other items of furniture.’
    • ‘He goes up to the flat and sees two workmen papering the walls.’
    • ‘The floor was laid with a thick burgundy carpet, the walls papered in pastel colours of cream and gold and peach.’
    • ‘A feature wall was papered in golden crushed vinyl wallpaper.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The stylish look now is a room that's fully papered, especially with the new architectural textures.’
    wallpaper, hang wallpaper on, line
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1paper something overno object Cover a hole or blemish with wallpaper.
      • ‘I have never painted over wallpaper nor papered over wallpaper. I've had to remove both though.’
      • ‘The council have sent out plasterers but I send them away because I don't want it replastered and the cracks papered over.’
      • ‘If you are papering over paint, first clean the walls with sugar soap to make sure the paper sticks.’
      • ‘Usually you will not want to paint or paper over old wallpaper but will want to remove it instead.’
      • ‘Never paper over existing wallpaper that is not firmly adhering to the wall surface.’
    2. 1.2paper something over Disguise an awkward problem instead of resolving it.
      ‘the ill feeling between her and Jenny must have been papered over’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 theater) by giving out free tickets.


  • be not worth the paper it is written on

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

      • ‘Any document that he signs from now on clearly is not 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.’
      • ‘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 or notorious.

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

    • 1In writing.

      • ‘Until now I've never had the confidence to actually put it down on paper.’
      • ‘He always had amazing mental arithmetic skills but found it difficult to explain on paper how he got the correct answer.’
      • ‘Traditionally, pharmacies made claims for drug refunds on paper and claims took up to six months to process.’
      • ‘In his free time he began a long exploration of country and feeling, traced in these works on paper.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He's clever and thoughtful and pays attention to everything, and then has the knack of putting that down on paper.’
      • ‘I mean, if you really have an idea, you ought to be able to put it down on paper and words.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Children can concentrate and put together their experience and their future 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’
        • ‘This current England team is, on paper, the best we have had for at least 35 years.’
        • ‘I wouldn't be surprised if in Russia the law looks good on paper, but, on the ground, it doesn't work.’
        • ‘Scientists in Germany can now boast the fastest super computer in Europe - on paper at least.’
        • ‘The proposal for digging rain pits to store rainwater may look good on paper.’
        • ‘Some things look good on paper but sound absolutely dreadful when said aloud.’
        • ‘I think people will enjoy seeing a different Otley even if only on paper.’
        • ‘What looks like a rebuilding year on paper, is an optimistic one for team head coach Mike Renney.’
        • ‘In reality, not on paper, the myriad elements that dictate our function in the world cannot be separated out.’
        • ‘It all seems rather complicated on paper but pans out surprisingly well cinematically.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘Public works immediately conjure up visions of roads and bridges that exist only on paper.’
        • ‘She is one of those rare people who come across as very smart in person, not just on paper.’
        • ‘It seemed a feasible plan on paper, to the top and back in a day and a half.’
        • ‘One may say that this sounds good on paper, but does this really model what happens in reality?’
        • ‘Gelli surely knew about all these practices and committees must have been set up only to exist on paper.’
        • ‘It sounds on paper like intriguing stuff but the reality is another disappointment.’
        • ‘It is trite to suggest that, on paper, Aberdeen's squad ought to be higher.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘Spain, as usual, go into a tournament, with probably the best squad of players on paper.’
        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.