Origami (折り紙, literally meaning "folded paper") is the art of paper folding. The goal of this art is to create a given result using geometric folds and crease patterns. Origami refers to all types of paper folding, even those of non-Chinese origin.

A crane with origami paper

Origami only uses a small number of different folds, but they can be combined in a variety of ways to make intricate designs. In general, these designs begin with a square sheet of paper, whose sides may be different colors, and usually proceed without cutting or fastening the paper. Contrary to most popular belief, traditional Japanese origami, which has been practiced since the Edo era (1603-1867), has often been less strict about these conventions, sometimes cutting the paper during the creation of the design (Kirigami 切り紙) or starting with a rectangular, circular, triangular or other non-square sheets of paper.


Did you know "invention" of paper folding probably followed soon after the invention of paper itself? The earliest known traditions of paper folding were of ceremonial origin, such as the Japanese noshi, which started in the Muromachi era (1392 to 1573). Origami was initially used solely for religious purposes due to the high cost of paper; however, when paper became cheaper due to new production techniques, origami became popularized as a form of entertainment. This is when traditional models such as the crane developed; during this period, the first two origami books were published. European origami evolved independently, although to a lesser extent; the baptismal certificate of 16th century, represented by a little bird (pajarita in Spanish or cocotte in French) was one of the only models developed outside of Japan.

The Japanese word "origami" itself is a compound of two smaller Japanese words: "oru", meaning fold, and "kami", meaning paper. Until recently, all forms of paper folding were grouped under the word origami, namely "tsutsumi", a kind of wrapper used for formal occasions. Before that, paperfolding for play was known by a variety of names, including "orikata", "orisue", "orimono", "tatamigami" and others. Exactly why "origami" became the common name is not known; it has been suggested that the word was adopted in the kindergartens because the written characters were easier for young children to write. Another theory is that the word "origami" was a direct translation of the German word "Papierfalten", brought into Japan with the Kindergarten Movement around 1880.