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


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


red tape

/ˈˌred ˈtāp//ˈˌrɛd ˈteɪp/