official rules that seem more complicated than necessary and prevent things from being done quickly bureaucratic red tape You have to go through endless red tape to get a residence permit. Word Origin early 18th cent.: so named because of the red or pink tape used to bind official documents.Extra examples All ministers are agreed on the need to cut bureaucratic red tape. He says he was almost put out of business by Government red tape. Plans may take longer and involve more red tape than you expect.