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Official, bureaucratic rules or methods that are typically overly strict, convoluted, or tedious. Our lawyer was able to cut through red tape and get us an answer from the courthouse. There's so much red tape involved in opening up a restaurant that we decided to ditch the plan altogether.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Fig. over-strict attention to the wording and details of rules and regulations, especially by government workers. (From the color of the tape used by government departments in England to tie up bundles of documents.) Because of red tape, Frank took weeks to get a visa. Red tape prevented Jack's wife from joining him abroad.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Official forms and procedures, especially those that are complex and time-consuming. For example, There's so much red tape involved in approving our remodeling that we're tempted to postpone it indefinitely . This expression alludes to the former British custom of tying up official documents with red ribbon. [Early 1800s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
COMMON Red tape is official rules and documents that seem unnecessary and cause delay. After dealing with all the red tape and finally getting approval for the building, our funding has been cut. Two lawyers have written a book to help people cut through the red tape when dealing with British nationality laws. Note: Lawyers and government officials used to tie documents together with red or pink tape.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
red ˈtape(disapproving) official rules that seem more complicated than necessary and prevent things from being done quickly: Do you know how much red tape you have to go through if you want to import a car?This phrase comes from the custom of tying up official documents with red ribbon or tape.
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