Tarmac is one of those words that you probably wouldn’t stop to wonder where it came from, and you might be surprised to know that it didn’t originally have anything to do with airports or planes.
In 1820, John Loudon MacAdam, invented a way of surfacing roads that gave a good surface and drainage. This type of road building was called ‘macadam’ just as we say ‘bitumen’ or ‘asphalt’.
With the invention of the automobile, there was a need for a sturdier surface again, at which point engineers added tar to the process. Tar macadam. Tarmac.