AskDefine | Define paper

Dictionary Definition

paper adj : made of paper; "they wore paper hats at the party"


1 a material made of cellulose pulp derived mainly from wood or rags or certain grasses
2 an essay (especially one written as an assignment); "he got an A on his composition" [syn: composition, report, theme]
3 a daily or weekly publication on folded sheets; contains news and articles and advertisements; "he read his newspaper at breakfast" [syn: newspaper]
4 a scholarly article describing the results of observations or stating hypotheses; "he has written many scientific papers"
5 medium for written communication; "the notion of an office running without paper is absurd"
6 a business firm that publishes newspapers; "Murdoch owns many newspapers" [syn: newspaper, newspaper publisher]
7 a newspaper as a physical object; "when it began to rain he covered his head with a newspaper" [syn: newspaper]


1 cover with paper; "paper the box"
2 cover with wallpaper [syn: wallpaper]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Anglo-Norman paper, from papier, from etyl la papyrus, from etyl grc πάπυρος.



  1. A sheet material used for writing on or printing on (or as a non-waterproof container), usually made by draining cellulose fibres from a suspension in water.
  2. A newspaper or anything used as such (such as a newsletter or listing magazine).
  3. Wallpaper.
  4. Wrapping paper.
  5. A written document, generally shorter than a book (white paper, term paper), in particular one written for the Government.
  6. A written document that reports scientific or academic research and is usually subjected to peer review before publication in a scientific journal or in the proceedings of a scientific or academic meeting (such as a conference, a workshop or a symposium).
  7. money.
material for writing on
wrapping paper
written document shorter than a book
academic paper


  1. Made of paper.
    paper bag
    paper plane
  2. Insubstantial.
    paper tiger


made of paper


  1. To apply paper to.
    to paper the hallway walls
  2. transitive idiom To document; to memorialize.
    After they reached an agreement, their staffs papered it up.


to apply paper to

Extensive Definition

Paper is thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon or packaging. It is produced by the amalgamation of fibers, typically vegetable fibers composed of cellulose, which are subsequently held together by hydrogen bonding. While the fibers are usually natural in origin, a wide variety of synthetic fibers, such as polypropylene and polyethylene, may be incorporated into paper as a way of imparting desirable physical properties. The most common source of these kinds of fibers is wood pulp from pulpwood trees. Vegetable fiber materials such as cotton, hemp, linen, and rice are also used.


Papyrus and parchment

Outside Egypt, parchment or vellum, made of processed sheepskin or calfskin, replaced papyrus as the papyrus plant requires subtropical conditions to grow.
In America, archaeological evidence indicates that a similar parchment writing material was invented by the Mayans no later than the 5th century AD. Called amatl, it was in widespread use among Mesoamerican cultures until the Spanish conquest. The parchment is created by boiling and pounding the inner bark of trees, until the material becomes suitable for art and writing.
These materials are made from pounded reeds and bark and is technically not true paper, which is made from pulp, rags, and fibers of plants and cellulose.

Early papermaking in China

Papermaking is considered to be one of the Four Great Inventions of Ancient China, since the first papermaking process was developed in China during the early 2nd century. During the Shang (1600 BC1050 BC) and Zhou (1050 BC256 BC) dynasties of ancient China, documents were ordinarily written on bone or bamboo (on tablets or on bamboo strips sewn and rolled together into scrolls), making them very heavy and awkward to transport. The light material of silk was sometimes used, but was normally too expensive to consider. While the Han Dynasty Chinese court official Cai Lun is widely regarded to have invented the modern method of papermaking (inspired from wasps and bees) from rags and other plant fibers in AD 105, the discovery of specimens bearing written Chinese characters in 2006 at north-east China's Gansu province suggest that paper was in use by the ancient Chinese military more than 100 years before Cai in 8 BC. Archeologically however, true paper without writing has been excavated in China dating to the reign of Emperor Wu of Han from the 2nd century BC, used for purposes of wrapping or padding protection for delicate bronze mirrors. It was also used for safety, such as the padding of poisonous 'medicine' as mentioned in the official history of the period. paper continued to be used for wrapping (and other) purposes.
Toilet paper was used in China by at least the 6th century AD. In AD 589, the Chinese scholar-official Yan Zhitui (531-591 AD) once wrote: "Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes". Production was started in Baghdad, where the Arabs invented a method to make a thicker sheet of paper. The manufacture had spread to Damascus by the time of the First Crusade in 1096; but the wars interrupted production, and it split into two centres. Cairo continued with the thicker paper. Iran became the centre of the thinner papers. It was also adopted in India.
Some historians speculate that paper was a key element in cultural advancement. According to this theory, Chinese culture was less developed than the West in ancient times prior to the Han Dynasty because bamboo, while abundant, was a clumsier writing material than papyrus; Chinese culture advanced during the Han Dynasty and subsequent centuries due to the invention of paper; and Europe advanced during the Renaissance due to the introduction of paper and the printing press.

European papermaking

The first paper mill in Europe was in Spain, at Xátiva (modern Valencia) in 1120. More mills appeared in Fabriano Italy in about the 13th century, as an import from Islamic Spain. They used hemp and linen rags as a source of fibre. The oldest known paper document in the West is the Mozarab Missal of Silos from the 11th century, probably written in the Islamic part of Spain. Paper is recorded as being manufactured in both Italy and Germany by 1400, just about the time when the woodcut printmaking technique was transferred from fabric to paper in the old master print and popular prints. The first commercially successful paper mill in England was opened by John Spilman in 1588 near Dartford in Kent and was initially reliant on German papermaking expertise.

Nineteenth Century advances in papermaking

Paper remained expensive, at least in book-sized quantities, through the centuries, until the advent of steam-driven paper making machines in the 19th century, which could make paper with fibres from wood pulp. Although older machines predated it, the Fourdrinier paper making machine became the basis for most modern papermaking. Nicholas Louis Robert of Essonnes, France, was granted a patent for a continuous paper making machine in 1799. At the time he was working for Leger Didot with whom he quarrelled over the ownership of the invention. Didot sent his brother-in-law, John Gamble, to meet Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier, stationers of London, who agreed to finance the project. Gamble was granted British patent 2487 on 20 October, 1801. With the help particularly of Bryan Donkin, a skilled and ingenious mechanic, an improved version of the Robert original was installed at Frogmore, Hertfordshire, in 1803, followed by another in 1804. A third machine was installed at the Fourdriniers' own mill at Two Waters. The Fourdriniers also bought a mill at St Neots intending to install two machines there and the process and machines continued to develop.
Together with the invention of the practical fountain pen and the mass produced pencil of the same period, and in conjunction with the advent of the steam driven rotary printing press, wood based paper caused a major transformation of the 19th century economy and society in industrialized countries. With the introduction of cheaper paper, schoolbooks, fiction, non-fiction, and newspapers became gradually available by 1900. Cheap wood based paper also meant that keeping personal diaries or writing letters became possible and so, by 1850, the clerk, or writer, ceased to be a high-status job.
The original wood-based paper was acidic due to the use of alum and more prone to disintegrate over time, through processes known as slow fires. Documents written on more expensive rag paper were more stable. Mass-market paperback books still use these cheaper mechanical papers (see below), but book publishers can now use acid-free paper for hardback and trade paperback books.


Chemical pulping

The purpose of a chemical pulping process is to break down the chemical structure of lignin and render it soluble in the cooking liquor, so that it may be washed from the cellulose fibers. Because lignin holds the plant cells together, chemical pulping frees the fibres and makes pulp. The pulp must be bleached to produce white paper for printing, painting and writing. Chemical pulps tend to cost more than mechanical pulps, largely due to the low yield, 40–50% of the original wood. Since the process preserves fibre length, however, chemical pulps tend to make stronger paper. Another advantage of chemical pulping is that the majority of the heat and electricity needed to run the process is produced by burning the lignin removed during pulping.
Papers made from chemical wood-based pulps are also unhelpfully known as woodfree papers.
The Kraft process is the most commonly practiced strategy for pulp manufacturing and produces especially strong, unbleached papers that can be used directly for bags and boxes but are often processed further, e.g. to make corrugated cardboard.

Mechanical pulping

There are two major mechanical pulps, thermomechanical pulp (TMP) and mechanical pulp. The latter is known in the USA as groundwood pulp. In the TMP process, wood is chipped and then fed into large steam-heated refiners where the chips are squeezed and fibreized between two steel discs. In the groundwood process, debarked logs are fed into grinders where they are pressed against rotating stones and fibreized. Mechanical pulping does not remove the lignin, so the yield is very high, >95%, but also causes paper made from this pulp to yellow and become brittle over time. Mechanical pulps have rather short fibre lengths and produce weak paper. Although large amounts of electrical energy are required to produce mechanical pulp, it costs less than chemical pulp.

Recycled paper

Paper recycling processes can use either chemical or mechanical pulp. By mixing with water and applying mechanical action the hydrogen bonds in the paper can be broken and fibres separated again. Most recycled paper contains a proportion of virgin fibre in the interests of quality.
There are three main classifications of recycled fibre:.
  • Mill Broke or Internal Mill Waste — this incorporates any substandard or grade-change paper made within the paper mill which then goes back into the manufacturing system to be repulped back into paper. Such out-of-specification paper is not sold and is therefore often not classified as genuine reclaimed recycled fibre. However, most paper mills have been recycling their own waste fibre for many years, long before recycling become popular.
  • Preconsumer Waste — this is offcuts and processing waste, such as guillotine trims and envelope blank waste. This waste is generated outside the paper mill and could potentially go to landfill, and is a genuine recycled fibre source. Also includes deinked preconsumer (recycled material that has been printed but did not reach its intended end use, such as waste from printers and unsold publications).
  • Postconsumer waste — this is fibre from paper which has been used for its intended end use and would include office waste, magazine papers and newsprint. As the vast majority of this paper has been printed (either digitally or by more conventional means such as litho or gravure), it will either be recycled as printed paper or go through a de-inking process first.
Recycled Papers can be made from 100% recycled materials or blended with virgin pulp. Recycled papers are (generally) not as strong nor as bright as papers made from virgin pulp.


Besides the fibres, pulps may contain fillers such as chalk or china clay, which improve the characteristics of the paper for printing or writing. Additives for sizing purposes may be mixed into the pulp and/or applied to the paper web later in the manufacturing process. The purpose of sizing is to establish the correct level of surface absorbency to suit the ink or paint.


After the paper web is produced, the water must be removed from it by pressing and drying.
Pressing the sheet removes the water by force. Once the water is forced from the sheet, felt (not to be confused with the traditional felt) is used to collect the water. When making paper by hand, a blotter sheet is used.
Drying involves using air and or heat to remove water from the paper sheet. In the earliest days of papermaking this was done by hanging the paper sheets like laundry. In more modern times, various forms of heated drying mechanisms are used. On the paper machine, the most common is the steam-heated can dryer. These dryers can heat to temperatures above 200°F (93°C) and are used in long sequences of more than 40 cans. The heat produced by these can easily dry the paper to less than 6% moisture.


The paper may then undergo sizing to alter its physical properties for use in various applications.
Paper at this point is uncoated. Coated paper has a thin layer of material such as china clay applied to one or both sides in order to create a surface more suitable for high-resolution halftone screens. (Uncoated papers are rarely suitable for screens above 150 lpi.) Coated or uncoated papers may have their surfaces polished by calendering. Coated papers are divided into matt, semi-matt or silk, and gloss. Gloss papers give the highest optical density in the printed image.
The paper is then fed onto reels if it is to be used on web printing presses, or cut into sheets for other printing processes or other purposes. The fibres in the paper basically run in the machine direction. Sheets are usually cut "long-grain", i.e. with the grain parallel to the longer dimension of the sheet.
All paper produced by Fourdrinier-type machines is wove paper, i.e. the wire mesh that transports the web leaves a pattern that has the same density along the paper grain and across the grain. Textured finishes, watermarks and wire patterns imitating hand-made laid paper can be created by the use of appropriate rollers in the later stages of the machine.
Wove paper does not exhibit "laidlines", which are small regular lines left behind on paper when it was handmade in a mould made from rows of metal wires or bamboo. Laidlines are very close together. They run perpendicular to the "chainlines", which are further apart. Handmade paper similarly exhibits "deckle edges", or rough and feathery borders.


  • To write or print on: the piece of paper becomes a document; this may be for keeping a record (or in the case of printing from a computer or copying from another paper: an additional record) and for communication; see also reading.
Paper can be produced with a wide variety of properties, depending on its intended use.

Types and weight

Paper is often characterized by weight.
In the United States, the weight assigned to a paper is the weight of a ream, 500 sheets, of varying "basic sizes", before the paper is cut into the size it is sold to end customers. For example, a ream of 20 lb, 8½ x 11" paper weighs 5 pounds, because it has been cut from a larger sheet into four pieces. In the United States, printing paper is generally 20 lb, 24 lb, or 32 lb at most. Cover stock is generally 68 lb, and 110 lb or more is considered card stock.
The 8.5" x 11" size stems from the original size of a vat that was used to make paper. At the time, paper was made from passing a fiber and water slurry through a screen at the bottom of a box. The box was 17" deep and 44" wide. That sheet, folded in half in the long direction, then twice in the opposite direction, made a sheet of paper that was exactly 8.5" x 11".
In Europe, and other regions using the ISO 216 paper sizing system, the weight is expressed in grammes per square metre (g/m2 or usually just g) of the paper. Printing paper is generally between 60 g and 120 g. Anything heavier than 160 g is considered card. The weight of a ream therefore depends on the dimensions of the paper and its thickness; One ream of A4 (210mm x 297mm) size (approx 8.27" x 11.7") weighs 2.5 kilogrammes (approx 5.5 pounds).
The sizing system in Europe is based on common width to height ratios for different paper sizes. The largest standard size paper is A0 (A zero). Two sheets of A1, placed upright side by side fit exactly into one sheet of A0 laid on its side. Similarly, two sheets of A2 fit into one sheet of A1 and so forth. Common sizes used in the office and the home are A4 and A3 (A3 is the size of two A4 sheets).
The density of paper ranges from 250 kg/m3 (16 lb/ft3) for tissue paper to 1500 kg/m3 (94 lb/ft3) for some speciality paper. Printing paper is about 800 kg/m3 (50 lb/ft3).

The future of paper

Some manufacturers, notably AMD, have started using a new, significantly more environmentally friendly alternative to expanded plastic packaging made out of paper, known commercially as paperfoam. The packaging has very similar mechanical properties to some expanded plastic packaging, but is biodegradable and can also be recycled with ordinary paper.
With increasing environmental concerns about synthetic coatings (such as PFOA) and the higher prices of hydrocarbon based petrochemicals, there is a focus on zein (corn protein) as a coating for paper in high grease applications such as popcorn bags.
Besides paperfoam, paper made from rocks rather than trees is also emerging as a more ecological alternative to regular paper made from trees or other alternatives as paperfoam. This Rock paper is available from companies as ViaStone and John Su.
Also, synthetics such as Tyvek and Teslin have been introduced as printing media as a more durable material than paper.

References and Notes

  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Chemicals and Chemical Technology, Part 1, Paper and Printing. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985. (also published in Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd., 1986.)
also referred to as:
  • Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin, '"Paper and Printing," vol. 5 part 1 of Needham, Joseph Science and Civilization in China:. Cambridge University Press, 1986. ISBN 0521086906. (also published in Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd., 1986.)
  • "Document Doubles" in Detecting the Truth: Fakes, Forgeries and Trickery, a virtual museum exhibition at Library and Archives Canada
paper in Tosk Albanian: Papier
paper in Arabic: ورق
paper in Bosnian: Papir
paper in Bulgarian: Хартия
paper in Catalan: Paper
paper in Czech: Papír
paper in Danish: Papir
paper in German: Papier
paper in Dhivehi: ކަރުދާސް
paper in Estonian: Paber
paper in Modern Greek (1453-): Χαρτί
paper in Spanish: Papel
paper in Esperanto: Papero
paper in Basque: Paper
paper in Persian: کاغذ
paper in French: Papier
paper in Gan Chinese: 紙
paper in Scottish Gaelic: Pàipear
paper in Galician: Papel
paper in Korean: 종이
paper in Croatian: Papir
paper in Indonesian: Kertas
paper in Icelandic: Pappír
paper in Italian: Carta
paper in Hebrew: נייר
paper in Georgian: ქაღალდი
paper in Swahili (macrolanguage): Karatasi
paper in Kurdish: Kaxez
paper in Latin: Charta
paper in Lithuanian: Popierius
paper in Hungarian: Papír
paper in Malayalam: കടലാസ്
paper in Malay (macrolanguage): Kertas
paper in Dutch: Papier
paper in Japanese: 紙
paper in Norwegian: Papir
paper in Norwegian Nynorsk: Papir
paper in Narom: Papi
paper in Occitan (post 1500): Papièr
paper in Uzbek: Qogʻoz
paper in Polish: Papier
paper in Portuguese: Papel
paper in Romanian: Hârtie
paper in Quechua: Qillqana p'anqa
paper in Russian: Бумага
paper in Scots: Paper
paper in Albanian: Letra
paper in Sicilian: Carta
paper in Simple English: Paper
paper in Slovak: Papier
paper in Slovenian: Papir
paper in Serbian: Папир
paper in Serbo-Croatian: Papir
paper in Sundanese: Kertas
paper in Finnish: Paperi
paper in Swedish: Papper
paper in Telugu: కాగితం
paper in Thai: กระดาษ
paper in Vietnamese: Giấy
paper in Turkish: Kâğıt
paper in Ukrainian: Папір
paper in Yiddish: פאפיר
paper in Contenese: 紙
paper in Dimli: Kaxıd
paper in Chinese: 纸

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bible paper, CD, IOU, India paper, MO, MS, Manila paper, acceptance, acceptance bill, alabaster, analysis, archives, art paper, article, assignment, autograph, bank acceptance, bank check, baryta paper, bill, bill of draft, bill of exchange, blank, blank check, blotting paper, blueprint paper, board, bond paper, brainchild, brick, butcher paper, carbon, carbon paper, cardboard, cartridge paper, causerie, cellophane, certificate, certificate of deposit, certified check, chalk, check, checkbook, cheque, chirograph, cigarette paper, clapboard, cloth paper, commercial paper, complimentary ticket, composition, computer printout, construction paper, copy, credentials, crepe, crepe paper, critique, crown paper, curlpaper, daily, daily newspaper, deadhead, debenture, deed, demand bill, demand draft, descant, discount ticket, discourse, discussion, disquisition, dissertation, distribute, docket, document, documents, dossier, draft, drawing paper, driven snow, due bill, edited version, endpaper, engrossment, essay, etude, examination, exchequer bill, excursus, exegesis, exposition, extra, extra edition, face, facial tissue, fair copy, feature, fiction, file, files, final draft, finished version, first approach, first draft, fleece, flimsy, flour, flypaper, foam, foolscap, form, free admission, free pass, free rider, free ticket, freeloader, gazette, gift wrap, glass, glaze, graph paper, grass paper, gruel, guest pass, hand paper, holograph, homily, ice paper, identification, instrument, introductory study, ivory, journal, kraft paper, lace paper, lath, leaf, legal document, legal instrument, legal paper, letter, letter of credit, letter paper, letterhead, lily, line, literae scriptae, literary artefact, literary production, literature, litmus paper, lucubration, maggot, manila, manuscript, matter, memoir, mere shadow, milk, millboard, money order, monograph, morceau, music paper, national newspaper, negotiable instrument, neighborhood newspaper, news, newsletter, newspaper, newspaper of record, newsprint, nonfiction, note, note of hand, note paper, oak tag, official document, onionskin, opus, organ, original, outline, page, pandect, paper house, paper toweling, paperboard, papers, papyrus, paraffin paper, paragraph, parchment, pass, pass holder, pasteboard, pearl, penscript, periodical, personal file, piece, piece of writing, plank, play, poem, post, postal order, preliminary study, printed matter, printout, production, prolegomenon, promissory note, proof paper, publication, pulpboard, quire, rag, rail, rake, reading matter, ream, recension, records, report, research paper, revet, rice paper, roll, roofing paper, screed, scrip, script, scrive, scroll, second draft, sepia paper, shadow, shake, shaving, sheathe, sheet, shingle, shop paper, sight bill, sight draft, silver, skeleton, sketch, slat, slate, slip, snow, soup, special, special article, special edition, speech, splinter, stationery, stipple paper, stone, strawboard, streak, study, sulfate paper, survey, swan, tabloid, tar paper, term paper, thatch, the written word, theme, thesis, tile, time bill, time draft, tissue, tissue paper, toilet tissue, tracing paper, tract, tractate, trade acceptance, transcript, transcription, transfer paper, treasury bill, treatise, treatment, twofer, typescript, vein, vellum, veneer, version, voucher, wafer, wall in, wall up, wallpaper, warrant, wastepaper, waxed paper, weatherboard, weekly, weekly newspaper, work, wrapping paper, writ, writing, writing paper
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