If your airplane is on the tarmac, that means you're either just about to take off or you've just landed. Either way, the tarmac is the paved runway at the airport.

The term tarmac refers to the area of an airport where airplanes taxi, or pull up to a gate, or head out to the runway. The runway itself is also called the tarmac. 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."

Definitions of tarmac
  1. noun
    a paved surface having compressed layers of broken rocks held together with tar
    synonyms: macadam, tarmacadam
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    type of:
    paved surface
    a level horizontal surface covered with paving material
  2. noun
    a paving material of tar and broken stone; mixed in a factory and shaped during paving
    synonyms: tarmacadam
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    type of:
    pavement, paving, paving material
    material used to pave an area
  3. verb
    surface with macadam
    synonyms: macadamise, macadamize
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    type of:
    coat, surface
    put a coat on; cover the surface of; furnish with a surface
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