plastic (adj.)

1630s, "capable of shaping or molding a mass of matter," from Latin plasticus, from Greek plastikos "fit for molding, capable of being molded into various forms; pertaining to molding," also in reference to the arts, from plastos "molded, formed," verbal adjective from plassein "to mold" (see plasma). Related: Plastically.

Hence "capable of change or of receiving a new direction" (1791). The surgical sense of "remedying a deficiency of structure" is recorded by 1839 (in plastic surgery). Meaning "made of plastic" is from 1909; this was picked up in counterculture slang and given an extended meaning "false, superficial" (1963). Plastic explosive (n.) "explosive material with a putty-like consistency" is attested from 1894.

plastic (n.)

1905, "solid substance that can be molded," originally of dental molds, from plastic (adj.). The main current meaning, "synthetic product made from oil derivatives," is recorded by 1909, used in this sense by Leo Baekeland (see Bakelite).

updated on July 07, 2020