verb (used with object)
- to write or set down on paper.
- to describe in writing.
verb (used without object)
- in written or printed form.
- in theory rather than in practice.
- existing only in a preliminary state; in a plan or design: The university building program is still only on paper.
Origin of paper
- a set of written examination questions
- the student's answers
Word Origin for paper
mid-14c., from Anglo-French paper, Old French papier "paper, document," from Latin papyrus "paper, paper made of papyrus stalks" (see papyrus).
Meaning "paper money" attested from 1722. As shortened form of newspaper, first attested 1640s. In plural, "collection of papers to establish one's identity, credentials, etc.," it is attested from 1680s. Paper chase is British slang from 1932.
1590s, "to write down on paper," from paper (n.). Meaning "to decorate a room with paper hangings" is from 1774. Related: Papered; papering. Verbal phrase paper over in the figurative sense is from 1955, from the notion of hiding plaster cracks with wallaper.
1590s, from paper (n.). Figurative of something flimsy or unsubstantial from 1716. Paper tiger (1952) translates Chinese tsuh lao fu, popularized by Mao Zedong. Paper doll attested from 1849; paper plate from 1723.
Also, paper over the cracks. Repair superficially, conceal, especially flaws. For example, He used some accounting gimmicks to paper over a deficit, or It was hardly a perfect settlement, but they decided to paper over the cracks. The German statesman Otto von Bismarck first used this analogy in a letter in 1865, and the first recorded example in English, in 1910, referred to it. The allusion is to covering cracked plaster with wallpaper, thereby improving its appearance but not the underlying defect.
In addition to the idiom beginning with paper
- paper over
- on paper
- push paper
- walking papers