on paper

Idioms & Phrases

on paper

In theory, hypothetically, as in Considering casualties, on paper the Americans won the Vietnam War, or They are a good team on paper but not so in the field. This metaphoric expression contrasts something written down with concrete reality. [Late 1700s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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