Plastic: Etymology & Meaning

Updated: Mar 5

Plastic, Etymology, Meaning

First things first, let us understand where the word Plastic comes from. Becoming aware of its etymology and – subsequently - the meaning of this particular word is a first good step to handle the task at hand.

Different dictionaries have different descriptions for its origins; they all agree the word Plastic has influence from the Latin plasticus (characteristic of moulding) and the Greek plastikos, from plassein ‘to mould’, ‘to form’. Some outlets consider French plastique has an influencer of the word as well.

Its first use dates back to the mid-17th century when used as an adjective to describe something capable of giving form, having the ability to create.

Nowadays, the various meanings given to Plastic don’t disperse that much.

Either “a light strong material that is produced by chemical processes and can be formed into shapes when heated. There are many different types of plastic used to make different objects and fabrics.”[1]

Or “a plastic substance. Specifically: any of numerous organic synthetic or processed materials that are mostly thermoplastic or thermosetting polymers of high molecular weight and that can be made into objects, films, or filaments”.[2]

In a way or another, they all fairly illustrate the Plastic we all have grown to abuse, we mean to use.

[1] [2]