[ pey-per ]
See synonyms for: paperpaperedpapers on

  1. a substance made from wood pulp, rags, straw, or other fibrous material, usually in thin sheets, used to bear writing or printing, for wrapping things, etc.

  2. a piece, sheet, or leaf of this.

  1. something resembling this substance, as papyrus.

  2. a written or printed document or the like.

  3. stationery; writing paper.

  4. a newspaper or journal.

  5. an essay, article, or dissertation on a particular topic: a paper on early Mayan artifacts.

  6. Often papers. a document establishing or verifying identity, status, or the like:citizenship papers.

  7. negotiable notes, bills, etc., as commercial paper or paper money: Only silver, please, no paper.

  8. a promissory note.

  9. papers,

  10. a sheet or card of paper with pins or needles stuck through it in rows.

  11. a set of questions for an examination, an individual set of written answers to them, or any written piece of schoolwork.

  12. Slang. a free pass to an entertainment.

verb (used with object)
  1. to cover with wallpaper or apply wallpaper to: They papered the bedroom last summer.

  2. to line or cover with paper.

  1. to distribute handbills, posters, etc., throughout: to paper a neighborhood with campaign literature.

  2. to fold, enclose, or wrap in paper.

  3. to supply with paper.

  4. Informal. to deluge with documents, especially those requiring one to comply with certain technical procedures, as a means of legal harassment: He papered the plaintiff to force a settlement.

  5. Slang. to fill (a theater or the like) with spectators by giving away free tickets or passes.

  6. Archaic.

    • to write or set down on paper.

    • to describe in writing.

verb (used without object)
  1. to apply wallpaper to walls.

  1. made of paper or paperlike material: a paper bag.

  2. paperlike; thin, flimsy, or frail.

  1. of, relating to, or noting routine clerical duties.

  2. pertaining to or carried on by means of letters, articles, books, etc.: a paper war.

  3. written or printed on paper.

  4. existing in theory or principle only and not in reality: paper profits.

  5. indicating the first event of a series, as a wedding anniversary.

  6. Slang. including many patrons admitted on free passes, as an audience for a theatrical performance: It's a paper house tonight.

Verb Phrases
  1. paper over, to patch up or attempt to conceal (a difference, disagreement, etc.) so as to preserve a friendship, present a unified opinion, etc.: to paper over a dispute.

Idioms about paper

  1. on paper,

    • 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

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English papire, from Latin papȳrus papyrus

Other words from paper

  • pa·per·less, adjective
  • pa·per·like, adjective
  • re·pa·per, verb (used with object)
  • un·pa·pered, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use paper in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for paper


/ (ˈpeɪpə) /

  1. a substance made from cellulose fibres derived from rags, wood, etc, often with other additives, and formed into flat thin sheets suitable for writing on, decorating walls, wrapping, etc: Related adjective: papyraceous

  2. a single piece of such material, esp if written or printed on

  1. (usually plural) documents for establishing the identity of the bearer; credentials

  2. Also called: ship's papers (plural) official documents relating to the ownership, cargo, etc, of a ship

  3. (plural) collected diaries, letters, etc

  4. a lecture or short published treatise on a specific subject

  5. a short essay, as by a student

    • a set of written examination questions

    • the student's answers

  6. commerce See commercial paper

  7. theatre slang a free ticket

  8. on paper in theory, as opposed to fact: it was a good idea on paper, but failed in practice

  1. made of paper: paper cups do not last long

  2. thin like paper: paper walls

  1. (prenominal) existing only as recorded on paper but not yet in practice: paper profits; paper expenditure

  2. taking place in writing: paper battles

  1. to cover (walls) with wallpaper

  2. (tr) to cover or furnish with paper

  1. (tr) theatre slang to fill (a performance) by giving away free tickets (esp in the phrase paper the house)

Origin of paper

C14: from Latin papyrus

Derived forms of paper

  • paperer, noun

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with paper


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.