Definition of plastic in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈplastik/


1A synthetic material made from a wide range of organic polymers such as polyethylene, PVC, nylon, etc., that can be molded into shape while soft and then set into a rigid or slightly elastic form.
Example sentences
  • One woman carried a picture frame encased in transparent plastic.
  • People were wearing dust masks and everything stank of burnt plastic.
  • The Dublin company is one of Europe's leading producers of clear sheet plastic, with a 30 per cent share in that market.
1.1 informal Credit cards or other types of plastic card that can be used as money: he pays with cash instead of with plastic
More example sentences
  • Swapping your expensive plastic for a credit card that charges no interest on balance transfers and purchases for up to nine months.
  • Check out the fantastic plastic in our Credit Card centre.
  • The number of credit and store cards has doubled to 74 million, which means that every adult holds two pieces of credit plastic in his or her wallet.


1Made of plastic: plastic bottles
More example sentences
  • He unhooked his arm and grabbed a plastic cup from the bag on the counter.
  • This is when he graciously grants himself permission to empty a shopping bag full of cheap plastic sunglasses onto the table in front of me.
  • Each tissue sample was excised using a biopsy forceps and placed within the small plastic container.
1.1Looking or tasting artificial: long-distance flights with their plastic food she smiled a little plastic smile
More example sentences
  • After she broke down in the dressing room, all she could try to do was fake a plastic smile and pray that it will be over soon.
  • She looks at me and puts on a plastic smile. ‘Sir, it will take about ten minutes if you don't mind waiting.’
  • I know that you've seen his plastic smile on a thousand eager faces before.
artificial, false, fake, superficial, pseudo, bogus, unnatural, insincere
informal phony, pretend
2(Of substances or materials) easily shaped or molded: rendering the material more plastic
More example sentences
  • Wet into wet, and the use of salt or alcohol in wet paint suggested the plastic foam material from which the noodles are made.
  • The process to make the cap includes positioning viscous plastic material in a mold to produce the desired retention member shape.
  • This is a thin film that's been coated onto a flexible plastic material backed by a strong glue.
malleable, moldable, pliable, pliant, ductile, flexible, soft, workable, bendable
informal bendy
2.1(In art) relating to molding or modeling in three dimensions, or producing three-dimensional effects.
Example sentences
  • The topic was also addressed for several day through works of plastic art and performances.
  • Four principal types of source pertain to the subject: literature, works of graphic or plastic art, archaeological remains, and notated pieces of music.
  • To the ancient Greeks, the body was an object of esthetic contemplation, raised by their plastic art to the loftiest peaks of sublimity.
2.2(In science and technology) relating to the permanent deformation of a solid without fracture by the temporary application of force.
Example sentences
  • In crystalline solids, plastic deformation tends to be confined to crystallographic planes of atoms which have a low resistance to shear.
  • Similar dynamics is observed in the plastic deformation of solids, in particular glasses.
  • The stress at which plastic deformation or yielding is observed to begin depends on the sensitivity of the strain measurements.
2.3Offering scope for creativity: the writer is drawn to words as a plastic medium
More example sentences
  • Lithic technology is generally viewed as a less plastic medium for the expression of style.
  • Such activities were not only affirming but also emotively comforting to the client in ways that more plastic mediums have not been.
  • Like reading, writing was a plastic medium which filled various needs and purposes.
2.4 Biology Exhibiting adaptability to change or variety in the environment.
Example sentences
  • Genotypic selection was measured on plastic traits in each environment to test whether the observed direction of plasticity was adaptive.
  • Similarly many behavioral traits are plastic across environments.
  • Every system which would escape the fate of an organism too rigid to adjust itself to its environment, must be plastic to the extent that the growth of knowledge demands.



Pronunciation: /-(ə)lē/
Example sentences
  • If a cell that is a potential site of establishment for a juvenile is already occupied the stolon reacts plastically, with probability p C, by at most four additional growth steps.
  • If a flexible pipe is subject to severe bending, the innermost steel carcass may seize and plastically deform.
  • In a similar fashion, a soft clay will generally behave plastically, whereas an overconsolidated clay (for example, London clay) will be stiff until it reaches its yield point, when it will break up into blocks.


Mid 17th century (in the sense 'characteristic of molding'): from French plastique or Latin plasticus, from Greek plastikos, from plassein 'to mold'.

  • The Greek word plastikos meant ‘able to be moulded into different shapes’, and came from plassein ‘to mould’. When plastic entered English in the 17th century it had a similar meaning, but its main modern sense is for synthetic compounds developed in the early 20th century. This sense was first used in print in 1909 by the Belgian-born scientist Leo Baekeland, inventor of Bakelite. Plastic surgery refers to the shaping or transferring of tissue, and the first mention of the use of plastic surgery in treating injury was in 1837. Plaster (Old English) comes from the same root. An early plaster was a bandage spread with a curative substance which usually became adhesive at body temperature. Use of the word to mean a soft mixture of lime mixed with sand or cement and water dates from late Middle English. Plasma (early 18th century) also comes from plassein. Its use in medical contexts, for the material from which blood is moulded or made, dates from the mid 19th century, with the ionized gas dating from the early 20th.

Words that rhyme with plastic

bombastic, drastic, dynastic, ecclesiastic, elastic, encomiastic, enthusiastic, fantastic, gymnastic, iconoclastic, mastic, monastic, neoplastic, orgastic, orgiastic, periphrastic, pleonastic, sarcastic, scholastic, scholiastic

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: plas·tic

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