Nearby words

  1. papaya,
  2. papeete,
  3. papelera,
  4. papen,
  5. papen, franz von,
  6. paper birch,
  7. paper chase,
  8. paper chromatography,
  9. paper clip,
  10. paper cutter


    on paper,
    1. in written or printed form.
    2. in theory rather than in practice.
    3. existing only in a preliminary state; in a plan or design: The university building program is still only on paper.

Origin of paper

1325–75; Middle English papire < Latin papȳrus papyrus

Related formspa·per·less, adjectivepa·per·like, adjectivere·pa·per, verb (used with object)un·pa·pered, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for on paper


/ (ˈpeɪpə) /




See also paper over

Derived Formspaperer, noun

Word Origin for paper

C14: from Latin papyrus

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

Word Origin and History for on paper
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with on paper

on paper

In theory, hypothetically, as in Considering casualties, on paper the Americans won the Vietnam War, or They are a good team on paper but not so in the field. This metaphoric expression contrasts something written down with concrete reality. [Late 1700s]


In addition to the idiom beginning with paper

  • paper over

also see:

  • on paper
  • push paper
  • walking papers
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.