Meaning of PAPER in English

I. pa ‧ per 1 S1 W1 /ˈpeɪpə $ -ər/ BrE AmE noun

[ Date: 1300-1400 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: papier , from Latin papyrus ; ⇨ ↑ papyrus ]

1 . FOR WRITING/WRAPPING [uncountable] material in the form of thin sheets that is used for writing on, wrapping things etc:

I’ll get you a piece of paper so you can write the number down.

Do you have a pen and paper?

2 . NEWSPAPER [countable] a newspaper:

Have you seen today’s paper?

You’ll read about it in tomorrow’s papers.

the Sunday papers

3 . DOCUMENTS/LETTERS papers [plural]

a) pieces of paper with writing on them that you use in your work, at meetings etc:

I left some important papers in my briefcase.

b) documents and letters concerning someone’s private or public life:

While I was organizing Simon’s papers I came across his diaries.

c) divorce papers documents concerning a ↑ divorce

d) official documents such as your ↑ passport , ↑ identity card etc:

My papers are all in order (=they are legal and correct) .

⇨ ↑ White Paper , ↑ green paper , ↑ order paper

4 . on paper

a) if you put ideas or information on paper, you write them down

put/get something down on paper

You need to get some of these thoughts down on paper.

b) if something seems true on paper, it seems to be true as an idea, but may not be true in a real situation SYN in theory :

It’s a nice idea on paper, but you’ll never get it to work.

5 . EXAMINATION [countable] British English a set of printed questions used as an examination in a particular subject, and the answers people write:

an exam paper

I have a stack of papers to mark.

history/French etc paper

The geography paper was really easy.

6 . SPEECH/PIECE OF WRITING [countable] a piece of writing or a talk on a particular subject by someone who has made a study of it:

a scientific paper

paper on

a paper on psychology

Professor Usborne gave a paper on recent developments in his field.

7 . PIECE OF SCHOOLWORK [countable] especially American English a piece of writing that is done as part of a course at school or university SYN essay

paper on

a paper on the Civil War

8 . OFFICIAL PUBLICATION [countable] a report prepared by a government or committee on a question they have been considering or a proposal for changes in the law:

We will publish a discussion paper on the future of the BBC.

paper on

the 1998 White Paper on political reform

a working paper (=a report that is not final) on funding the Health Service

9 . FOR WALLS [uncountable and countable] paper for covering and decorating the walls of a room SYN wallpaper :

a floral paper

10 . FINANCIAL [uncountable and countable] ↑ stock s and ↑ share s that can be bought and sold on a financial market

11 . TOILET [uncountable] soft thin paper used for cleaning yourself after you have used the toilet SYN toilet paper , toilet roll

12 . not worth the paper it is written on/printed on if something such as a contract is not worth the paper it is written on, it has no value because whatever is promised in it will not happen

⇨ put/set pen to paper at ↑ pen 1 (3), ⇨ ↑ waste paper

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ phrases

▪ a sheet of paper

Each recipe was written down on a separate sheet of paper.

▪ a piece of paper

Can I have another piece of paper?

▪ a scrap/slip of paper (=a small piece)

He scribbled Pamela’s address on a scrap of paper.

▪ a pad of paper (=many sheets of paper fixed together at one edge)

Chris took out a pad of paper and started writing.


▪ writing/note paper (=good quality paper for writing letters)

Can you fetch me a piece of writing paper and a pen?

▪ plain paper (=with nothing written or printed on it)

The package was wrapped in plain brown paper.

▪ lined paper (=printed with horizontal lines, for writing)

a note written on lined paper

▪ wrapping paper (=coloured paper for wrapping presents )

He carefully removed the wrapping paper so it wouldn’t tear.

▪ tissue paper (=very thin paper for wrapping things)

All the clothes were wrapped in tissue paper.

▪ recycled paper (=paper made from waste paper)

The envelopes are made from 1OO percent recycled paper.


► Do not say 'write on a paper' . Say write on a piece of paper.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 2)


▪ a local paper

You could try putting an advert in the local paper.

▪ a national paper

The story had been in all the national papers.

▪ a daily paper

Which of these daily papers do you usually read?

▪ a Sunday paper

I only get a Sunday paper if I’ve got lots of spare time.

▪ an evening paper

Ian usually buys an evening paper on his way home.

▪ a tabloid paper (=one with small pages, especially one without much serious news)

Don’t believe everything you read in the tabloid papers.

▪ a broadsheet paper (=one with large pages, usually one containing serious news)

Tabloid newspapers are usually about half the size of a broadsheet paper.

▪ a quality paper British English (=one intended for educated readers )

Readers of quality papers, such as the Telegraph and the Guardian, are mainly employed in professional jobs.

II. paper 2 BrE AmE adjective [only before noun]

1 . made of paper:

a paper bag

2 . written or printed on paper:

The brochure is available in electronic and paper versions.

3 . paper qualifications an expression meaning documents showing that you have passed particular examinations, used specially when you think that experience and knowledge are more important:

Paper qualifications are no guide to ability.

4 . existing only as an idea but not having any real value:

paper profits (=a record of the value of something, that is not real until the thing is sold)

paper promises

III. paper 3 BrE AmE verb [transitive]

1 . to decorate the walls of a room by covering them with special paper SYN wallpaper

2 . paper over the cracks to try to hide disagreements or difficulties:

We need to discuss disagreements honestly without papering over the cracks.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.