Word of the Day

bubble wrap


a sheet of plastic containing bubbles of air that is used for protecting things while they are being moved or sent by post

Origin and usage

Bubble wrap is a relatively new word, dating back to the mid-1950s when the protective wrap was invented. The word ‘bubble’ comes from the Middle Low German word ‘bubbeln’ meaning ‘a small amount of fluid inflated with gas or air’, while the word ‘wrap’ comes from the Proto-Indo-European root word ‘werp’ meaning ‘to turn or wind’.


Bubble wrap refers to a protective plastic sheeting used to prevent fragile items from breaking when they are moved or shipped. One side of the sheet is flat, while the other side is covered in small, round plastic bubbles filled with air. The bubbles create a cushioned layer that protects the item inside. Bubble wrap is usually sold in long rolls or large, flat sheets.

Bubble wrap was invented by two American engineers in 1957. The first bubble wrap was actually just two plastic shower curtains sealed together and was marketed as a decorative wallcovering. When that idea failed to take off, the engineers began selling their bubble wrap as insulation for greenhouses.

It wasn’t until 1960 when people figured out how well bubble wrap worked to protect fragile items from breaking. The first major buyer of bubble wrap was the computer company IBM, which used the protective material when packing its IBM 1401 computer for shipment.
Today, bubble wrap is not only a popular packaging material. Inventors have found all sorts of different uses for the plastic wrap, including using it to make a car door cover, a kite and a wheelchair seat cushion.

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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