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red tape

This page is about the idiom red tape.

Meaning: Strict adherence to rules and regulations so that a procedure seems to take longer than necessary.

For example:

  • It takes a long time to set up a company in some countries because of all the red tape involved in getting government permits.

  • It took two weeks to get visas for our aid workers because of all the red tape.

Origin: Probably related to the fact that bundles of official government documents are often tied together with red tape.

Quick Quiz:

The red tape makes getting government approval take

a. a long time

b. a short time

c. a good time

Idiom of the Day

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Contributor: Matt Errey