can·​vas | \ ˈkan-vəs How to pronounce canvas (audio) \
variants: or less commonly canvass
plural canvases also canvasses

Definition of canvas

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a firm closely woven cloth usually of linen, hemp, or cotton used for clothing and formerly much used for tents and sails
2a : a piece of cloth backed or framed as a surface for a painting an artist's canvas also : the painting on such a surface
b : something likened to a painter's canvas … just up the driveway is an extraordinary piece of garden design. [Ruth] Bancroft is the artist and her canvas is a three-acre patch of land in the midst of suburbia.— Harriet Chiang In addition to the cover-up work, [Miryam] Lumpini will turn the dimpled canvas of a young man's back into a magnificent phoenix.Allure The birds were moving art on a canvas of sky and water and endless prairie.— Shannon Tompkins
c : the background, setting, or scope of a historical or fictional account or narrative the crowded canvas of history
3 : a piece of canvas used for a particular purpose a hammock made of canvas
4 : tent also : a group of tents
5 : a set of sails : sail sailing under full canvas
6 : a stiff material (as of coarse cloth or plastic) that has regular meshes for working with a needle (as in needlepoint)
7 : the canvas-covered floor of a boxing or wrestling ring


canvased or canvassed; canvasing or canvassing

Definition of canvas (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to cover, line, or furnish with canvas

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Other Words from canvas


canvaslike \ ˈkan-​vəs-​ˌlīk How to pronounce canvaslike (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for canvas

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of canvas in a Sentence

Noun a tent made of canvas Use a canvas to cover the boat. The museum has several canvases by Rubens.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This bag features a classic exterior canvas pattern with calf leather detailing trim. Melissa Lee, USA TODAY, "Coach is having a huge summer sale with items up to 50% off," 13 May 2020 Neck gaiters, usually designed for sport-use are a great alternative, as is cotton, canvas. and denim. Sara Rodrigues, House Beautiful, "How to Clean Face Masks Safely," 7 May 2020 Nayara Tented Camp, however, has taken over the sloping hillsides that lead up from the rainforest and planted 21 bells-and-whistles canvas rooms among the trees. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best New Hotels in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central & South America: 2020 Hot List," 5 May 2020 After consulting with the town’s canvas board, McFarland officials decided to reject 22 ballots that did not contain a postmark or were not postmarked by Election Day, said Cassandra Suettinger, McFarland’s clerk and treasurer. Ryan Mccarthy, ProPublica, "Whether the Ballot You Mail Is Counted May Depend on Where You Vote," 30 Apr. 2020 Duck canvas does a pretty good job of holding its shape simply by ironing it. Eric Hockman, Sunset Magazine, "Sewing for Beginners: How I Made Waxed Canvas Window Covers For My Camper," 30 Apr. 2020 Its huge canvas encompasses not just Napoleon’s wars against the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires from 1805 to 1812, but a cast whose actions and emotions span the breadth of human consciousness. The Economist, "Unhappy in the same way Readers across the world are finding solace in “War and Peace”," 25 Apr. 2020 Saola Promotion Dates: April 22 only Almost every component of a Saola shoe is eco-friendly: the brand makes soles from harmful algae, outer materials from recycled canvas and plastic bottles, and insoles from sustainably harvested cork. The Editors, Outside Online, "6 Brands Supporting Earth Day—and How You Can Help," 22 Apr. 2020 The thing turning the overcast sky into a crimson canvas could only be fire. Paula Schleis,, "'Be ye prepared’: Warning, flames greeted National Guard ahead of Kent State shootings," 2 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Out of 800 members canvased for Fiesta, only a couple of dozen contributed. Paula Allen,, "World War I, flu pandemic knocked out San Antonio’s Fiesta for two years before its triumphant return in 1920," 2 May 2020 Volunteers canvased the area for the 2020 Street Count census of the homeless. Scott Utterback,, "Louisville, from dusk to dawn: What we captured while the city was seemingly asleep," 11 Feb. 2020 These can be detailed down to a specific address and printed on materials from paper to canvas to metal. Tennessean Staff, USA TODAY, "10 gifts for people who love Nashville," 19 Nov. 2019 When that happens, workers are sent to canvas the city aiming to bring homeless individuals to the emergency shelters that expand capacity during the code. Mckenna Oxenden,, "78-year-old homeless man dies after being struck by MTA Mobility bus in downtown Baltimore," 6 Dec. 2019 Barnstormers also received canvasing training from the campaign nearby. Sarah Ewall-wice, CBS News, ""Barnstormers for Pete" look to boost Buttigieg's chances in early states," 14 Nov. 2019 On the north side of Milwaukee, BLOC — Black Leaders Organizing for Communities — has trained 16 paid civic ambassadors to canvas neighborhoods. Karen Heller, Washington Post, "All eyes are on Wisconsin, the state that’s gearing up to define the presidential election," 5 Nov. 2019 Messengers may engage in activities like door to door canvasing, hosting community events, and spreading new positive norms shift peer dynamics and delegitimize violence. Twin Cities, "Bravo, Honsey, LeBlanc, Sethuraju, Swift: For safety’s sake, St. Paul must heal the root causes of violence," 17 Sep. 2019 To his luck, detectives canvasing the area found Quavo running around the Crown Hill area, a neighborhood in Seattle. Georgia Slater,, "Seattle Man With Parkinson's Reunited With His Stolen Bulldog Weeks After Dog's Disappearance," 17 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'canvas.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of canvas


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1556, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for canvas

Noun and Verb

Middle English canevas, from Anglo-French canevas, chanevaz, from Vulgar Latin *cannabaceus hempen, from Latin cannabis hemp — more at cannabis

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Time Traveler for canvas

Time Traveler

The first known use of canvas was in the 13th century

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Statistics for canvas

Last Updated

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Canvas.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for canvas


How to pronounce canvas (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of canvas

: a strong, rough cloth that is used to make bags, tents, sails, etc.
: a specially prepared piece of cloth on which a picture can be painted by an artist
: a painting made on a piece of cloth


can·​vas | \ ˈkan-vəs How to pronounce canvas (audio) \

Kids Definition of canvas

1 : a strong cloth of hemp, flax, or cotton canvas bags
2 : a specially prepared piece of cloth used as a surface for painting

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