Definition of red tape in English:

red tape


  • Excessive bureaucracy or adherence to rules and formalities, especially in public business.

    ‘this law will just create more red tape’
    • ‘Instead they are demanding that councils cut red tape to free resources.’
    • ‘Opponents of the penalties claim officers were too tied up in red tape to enforce the legislation.’
    • ‘You will encounter government regulations and red tape in your chosen country.’
    • ‘Today's children, he laments, live in a society ruled by fear and red tape.’
    • ‘Perry hates red tape but he'll find it in abundance in the public sector.’
    • ‘He says he is saddened that bureaucratic red tape has brought the event to an end.’
    • ‘Many small businesses and independent traders can get confused by regulations and red tape.’
    • ‘The Labour Government has introduced a raft of extra burdens and red tape for small rural businesses.’
    • ‘In addition to red tape, uncooperative officials are blamed for delays in other places.’
    • ‘It is a land so bound up by red tape and regulation it is a struggle for people to make a living.’
    • ‘The question is, can this be done without the need for more red tape and regulation?’
    • ‘Despite vows by politicians to cut red tape, the burden just keeps growing.’
    • ‘In five years he has lumbered business will all manner of regulations, costs and red tape.’
    • ‘No one really knows how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.’
    • ‘I am not aware of any bills that the Government has introduced today that get rid of red tape.’
    • ‘He attacked the government for breaking its promise to cut red tape.’
    • ‘In addition, they create red tape and can cost as much to administer as they earn.’
    • ‘He says local government red tape is killing housing availability and affordability.’
    • ‘The Scottish economy cannot afford the tourist industry to be hamstrung by red tape and bureaucracy any longer.’
    • ‘It is really another piece of unnecessary legislation and more red tape we have to comply with.’
    official procedure, rule, regulation, convention, ritual, custom, matter of form, formal gesture
    ceremony, ceremoniousness, ritual, conventionality, red tape, protocol, decorum
    View synonyms


Early 18th century: so named because of the red or pink tape used to bind and secure official documents.


red tape

/ˈˌred ˈtāp/