By Deane Barker

This is short for “tarmacadam,” which differs slightly from macadam.

Wikipedia defines it as:

Tarmacadam is a road surfacing material made by combining crushed stone, sand, and tar […] It is a more durable and dust-free enhancement of simple compacted stone macadam surfaces…

Vocabulary.com says:

The name comes from a specific tar-based paving material that’s also commonly used on roads. Originally, the word was trademarked as shorthand for tarmacadam, “tar mixed with crushed rock…”

So, it technically refers to a specific method of road construction, but honestly, we know it as the concrete areas at airports.

I gather that in the UK, “tarmac” is sometimes used as a verb, like we would use “pave” here in the US.

We should tarmac that gravel road.

Why I Looked It Up

I used the word in a Facebook post, and I suddenly got to wondering where it came from. We all know it intuitively, but it’s such an odd word that I figured there had to be a story behind it.

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