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Mounds of chads generated from punch cards


Uncertain; possibly from the English slang term chat (louse). The word predates the Chadless punch, which therefore cannot be its origin,[1] and a derivation from Scots chad (river gravel) stated in some dictionaries is now thought to be nothing more than guesswork.[2]



chad (countable and uncountable, plural chad or chads)[3]

  1. (uncountable) Small pieces of paper punched out from the edges of continuous stationery, or from ballot papers, paper tape, punched cards, etc.
    • 2011 June 1, David P. Mikkelson, “Chad: Does the word ‘chad’ come from the Chadless keypunch, invented by a Mr. Chadless?”, in[2], retrieved 7 September 2016:
      The keypunch wasn't named after a Mr. Chadless; it was so named because, as expected, it punched tape while producing little or no chad.
  2. (countable) One of these pieces of paper.
    • 1939 May 20, Ross A. Lake, Printing Perforating Telegraph Apparatus, US Patent 2255794:
      Prior devices of the type according to the present invention have been arranged to cut out the perforations completely at a single movement, thereby producing chads or waste material which often present difficult problems of disposal.
    • 1959, J[ohn] W[illiam] Freebody, Telegraphy, London: Isaac Pitman & Sons, OCLC 892562842:
      The small hinged discs of paper, called ‘chad’, remain attached to the body of the tape.
    • 2000 December 12, Supreme Court of the United States, per curiam, “Bush v. Gore”, in United States Reports, volume 531, page 98 at 105:
      Much of the controversy seems to revolve around ballot cards designed to be perforated by a stylus but which, either through error or deliberate omission, have not been perforated with sufficient precision for a machine to count them. In some cases a piece of the card—a chad—is hanging, say by two corners. In other cases there is no separation at all, just an indentation.


Derived termsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ David P. Mikkelson (1 June 2011), “Chad: Does the word ‘chad’ come from the Chadless keypunch, invented by a Mr. Chadless?”, in[1], retrieved 7 September 2016.
  2. ^ William Safire (2004) The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time: Wit and Wisdom from the Popular “On Language” Column in The New York Times Magazine, New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0-7432-4244-8, page 43.
  3. ^ chad” in Macmillan Dictionary, American edition; “chad” in Macmillan Dictionary, British edition.

Middle EnglishEdit


See ch-.



  1. I had




  1. person




  1. Aspirate mutation of cad.