Origin of plastic

1625–35; 1900–10 for def 1; < Latin plasticus that may be molded < Greek plastikós. See -plast, -ic
Related formsplas·ti·cal·ly, plas·tic·ly, adverbnon·plas·tic, adjective, nounun·plas·tic, adjective

Synonyms for plastic


a combining form occurring in chloroplastic; protoplastic.

Origin of -plastic

see origin at plastic Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for plastic

Contemporary Examples of plastic

Historical Examples of plastic

  • It had been well rubbed in, too, made of a plastic adherence by the addition of mucilage.


    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.

British Dictionary definitions for plastic



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, etcCompare resin (def. 2)
short for plastic money


made of plastic
easily influenced; impressionablethe plastic minds of children
capable of being moulded or formed
fine arts
  1. of or relating to moulding or modellingthe plastic arts
  2. produced or apparently produced by mouldingthe plastic draperies of Giotto's figures
having the power to form or influencethe plastic forces of the imagination
biology of or relating to any formative process; able to change, develop, or growplastic tissues
of or relating to plastic surgery
slang superficially attractive yet unoriginal or artificialplastic food
Derived Formsplastically, adverb

Word Origin for plastic

C17: from Latin plasticus relating to moulding, from Greek plastikos, from plassein to form


adj combining form

growing or formingneoplastic

Word Origin for -plastic

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

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

plastic in Medicine




Capable of being shaped or formed.
Easily influenced; impressionable.
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.
Related formsplas•tici•ty (plăs-tĭsĭ-tē) n.



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.

plastic in Science




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.


Capable of being molded or formed into a shape.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.