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[plas-tik] /ˈplæs tɪk/
Often, plastics. any of a group of synthetic or natural organic materials that may be shaped when soft and then hardened, including many types of resins, resinoids, polymers, cellulose derivatives, casein materials, and proteins: used in place of other materials, as glass, wood, and metals, in construction and decoration, for making many articles, as coatings, and, drawn into filaments, for weaving. They are often known by trademark names, as Bakelite, Vinylite, or Lucite.
a credit card, or credit cards collectively, usually made of plastic:
He had a whole pocketful of plastic.
money, payment, or credit represented by the use of a credit card or cards.
something, or a group of things, made of or resembling plastic:
The entire meal was served on plastic.
made of plastic.
capable of being molded or of receiving form:
clay and other plastic substances.
produced by molding:
plastic figures.
having the power of molding or shaping formless or yielding material:
the plastic forces of nature.
being able to create, especially within an art form; having the power to give form or formal expression:
the plastic imagination of great poets and composers.
Fine Arts.
  1. concerned with or pertaining to molding or modeling; sculptural.
  2. relating to three-dimensional form or space, especially on a two-dimensional surface.
  3. pertaining to the tools or techniques of drawing, painting, or sculpture:
    the plastic means.
  4. characterized by an emphasis on formal structure:
    plastic requirements of a picture.
pliable; impressionable:
the plastic mind of youth.
giving the impression of being made of or furnished with plastic:
We stayed at one of those plastic motels.
artificial or insincere; synthetic; phony:
jeans made of cotton, not some plastic substitute; a plastic smile.
lacking in depth, individuality, or permanence; superficial, dehumanized, or mass-produced:
a plastic society interested only in material acquisition.
of or relating to the use of credit cards:
plastic credit; plastic money.
Biology, Pathology. formative.
Surgery. concerned with or pertaining to the remedying or restoring of malformed, injured, or lost parts:
a plastic operation.
Origin of plastic
1625-35; 1900-10 for def 1; < Latin plasticus that may be molded < Greek plastikós. See -plast, -ic
Related forms
plastically, plasticly, adverb
nonplastic, adjective, noun
unplastic, adjective
11. pliant, flexible, amenable.


a combining form occurring in chloroplastic; protoplastic.
See origin at plastic Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for plastic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It had been well rubbed in, too, made of a plastic adherence by the addition of mucilage.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • The plastic fingers were at work about her, moulding her into what she must be as a woman.

    A Spirit in Prison Robert Hichens
  • The same fluency may be observed in every work of the plastic arts.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Men in plastic sag-suits roved about as individuals, seeking what they might loot.

    Pariah Planet Murray Leinster
  • Already there are holes in my plastic clothing where the beer splashes.

    The Flying Cuspidors V. R. Francis
British Dictionary definitions for plastic


/ˈplæstɪk; ˈplɑːs-/
any one of a large number of synthetic usually organic materials that have a polymeric structure and can be moulded when soft and then set, esp such a material in a finished state containing plasticizer, stabilizer, filler, pigments, etc. Plastics are classified as thermosetting (such as Bakelite) or thermoplastic (such as PVC) and are used in the manufacture of many articles and in coatings, artificial fibres, etc Compare resin (sense 2)
short for plastic money
made of plastic
easily influenced; impressionable: the plastic minds of children
capable of being moulded or formed
(fine arts)
  1. of or relating to moulding or modelling: the plastic arts
  2. produced or apparently produced by moulding: the plastic draperies of Giotto's figures
having the power to form or influence: the plastic forces of the imagination
(biology) of or relating to any formative process; able to change, develop, or grow: plastic tissues
of or relating to plastic surgery
(slang) superficially attractive yet unoriginal or artificial: plastic food
Derived Forms
plastically, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from Latin plasticus relating to moulding, from Greek plastikos, from plassein to form


combining form
growing or forming: neoplastic
Word Origin
from Greek plastikos; see plastic
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for plastic

1630s, "capable of shaping or molding," from Latin plasticus, from Greek plastikos "able to be molded, pertaining to molding, fit for molding," also in reference to the arts, from plastos "molded, formed," verbal adjective from plassein "to mold" (see plasma). Surgical sense of "remedying a deficiency of structure" is first recorded 1839 (in plastic surgery). Meaning "made of plastic" is from 1909. Picked up in counterculture slang with meaning "false, superficial" (1963). Plastic explosive (n.) attested from 1894.


1905, "solid substance that can be molded," originally of dental molds, from plastic (adj.). Main current meaning, "synthetic product made from oil derivatives," first recorded 1909, coined by Leo Baekeland (see bakelite).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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plastic in Medicine

plastic plas·tic (plās'tĭk)

  1. Capable of being shaped or formed.

  2. Easily influenced; impressionable.

  3. Capable of building tissue; formative.

Any of various organic compounds produced by polymerization, capable of being molded, extruded, cast into various shapes and films, or drawn into filaments used as textile fibers.
plas·tic'i·ty (plās-tĭs'ĭ-tē) n.

-plastic suff.
Forming; growing; changing; developing: neoplastic.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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plastic in Science
Noun  Any of numerous substances that can be shaped and molded when subjected to heat or pressure. Plastics are easily shaped because they consist of long-chain molecules known as polymers, which do not break apart when flexed. Plastics are usually artificial resins but can also be natural substances, as in certain cellular derivatives and shellac. Plastics can be pressed into thin layers, formed into objects, or drawn into fibers for use in textiles. Most do not conduct electricity well, are low in density, and are often very tough. Polyvinyl chloride, methyl methacrylate, and polystyrene are plastics. See more at thermoplastic, thermosetting.

Adjective  Capable of being molded or formed into a shape.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for plastic



False and superficial; meretricious; hoked-up, slick, phony: in California, a plastic society (1960s+ Counterculture)


A credit card; monetary credit afforded by the use of credit cards (1979+)

[second sense fr plastic money, which is found by 1974]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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