Hard Copy



Meaning of Idiom ‘Hard Copy’

hard copy is a physical copy of digital information printed out onto paper by a computer, as opposed to digitally stored information displayed on a screen or stored on a removable disk.

Earlier, the term hard copy, in newspapers, books, and business documents, referred to the original typewritten or handwritten form of a document as opposed to copies made from it.

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As well, the term referred to the top copy of a receipt, requisition, invoice etc. as opposed to impression copies made by the pressure of the writing on subsequent copies underneath the top copy, whether by the use of carbon paper between the sheets or by a system of carbonless copy paper. The “hard copy” was usually white, while the copies were yellow, pink, and other colors so that businesses could use a system of color coding to understand which copies should go to each department. Since marks might be made on the copies, words crossed out, and notes added, the original or “hard” copy was considered an important reference.

Digital copies which are not printed on paper are sometimes called soft copies.

Note on spelling: This compound term is sometimes spelled as one word, hardcopy, and less often, in hyphenated form, hard-copy. Hard copy, spelled with two words, is the most common, however.

Examples Of Use

“Mr. Ferguson is quite old-fashioned and insists on having a hard copy of all his business documents.”

“Can you send me of hard copy of that file?”


This idiom is often assumed to be unique to the digital computer age. However, it predates computers by many years and was used as early as the late 1800’s to refer to original documents, manuscripts, etc.

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