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 canvas (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 Republican lawmakers call his canvas so over-sized as to assure voter backlash. John Harwood, CNN, "Biden's Wednesday speech will outline his rhetorical endgame," 25 Apr. 2021 Artist Bill Patterson generally begins painting his canvas with a few laps remaining in the race and quickly completes it with the respective winners — and sometimes the runner-up — according to the track. Michelle R. Martinelli, USA TODAY, "A grandfather clock? A gladiator sword? A live lobster? NASCAR’s top-14 novelty trophies, ranked," 10 Apr. 2021 Some Elevated White Sneakers Toss your boring canvas sneaks in favor of this stylish leather pair, which is included in the Madewell sale. Kara Cuzzone, Forbes, "Behold, The 7 Best Things To Buy At Madewell’s Spring Sale," 6 Apr. 2021 Sonnenberg was a legendary mixer, and the ballroom was his blank canvas, a mythical thing in the latter half of the 20th century. David Netto, Town & Country, "The Design Secrets of Great Party Houses," 22 Mar. 2021 Over the past year, becoming her own canvas for the escapist beauty looks that have always inspired her has brought Wu much solace—and reminded her about using makeup as a tool of self-discovery. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "This Stylist, Producer, And Model Has Been Re-Creating Mesmerizing Runway Makeup Looks During Lockdown," 19 Mar. 2021 Then per Iowa law, all the counties in the 2nd Congressional District have their official county canvas. Fox News Staff, Fox News, "Iowa GOP rep blasts Democrat's election challenge: 'They want to go against the laws of our state'," 13 Mar. 2021 Students will be given the power to move mountains and trees, on their canvas., "Community News For The Wethersfield Edition," 18 Feb. 2021 Greengrass will have to hope the Academy’s directing branch favors his expansive canvas more than the HFPA did. Jen Chaney, Vulture, "The Biggest Snubs and Surprises of the 2021 Golden Globe Nominations," 3 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Biden administration suggested states could use some of the funding to support rural and faith-based organizations to canvas their neighborhoods to schedule vaccine appointments. Cassidy Morrison, Washington Examiner, "Vaccine program runs into rural roadblock," 11 Apr. 2021 Plainclothes detectives will canvas the neighborhood for any potential leads. Michael Mcdaniel, The Arizona Republic, "Chandler community gather at San Tan Park to support family of teen injured in shooting," 2 Mar. 2021 On Saturday, nearly four weeks after the still-unsolved Jan. 26 shooting, the parents of Larry Tould Jr. joined with community activists to canvas the neighborhood where the incident occurred, hoping to shake loose information about his death. Jeff Truesdell,, "19-Year-Old Fla. Teen Who Was 'Life of the Party' Was Killed Nearly a Month Ago, Case Is Unsolved," 22 Feb. 2021 Fire officials are working to eliminate any possible accidental causes while investigators from the Springfield Police and FBI canvas the area for any possible leads from witnesses in the area. NBC News, "'Highly suspicious' fire at Black church in Massachusetts being investigated as arson," 28 Dec. 2020 Investigators will canvas retailers that sell precursor chemicals and websites like eBay or Craigslist. Dakin Andone, CNN, "Here's how officials are likely to handle the investigation of the Nashville explosion," 26 Dec. 2020 More than 500 people gathered to canvas the area to look for her, but she was never found. Morgan Baila,, "So, Taylor Swift & Haim Wrote The Best Murder Mystery Of The Year," 14 Dec. 2020 Phone banking and text banking, which students tend to be more receptive to, have grown in importance since organizations can’t canvas on campus, Anton said. Lina Ruiz,, "College political groups shift to Zoom, social media amid pandemic," 22 Oct. 2020 He was known primarily for his pastels and oil paintings that captured on paper and canvas the intoxicating colors — as Mr. Kahn perceived them — of trees, the sky, and rolling hills and sometimes the barns and cabins tucked inside them., "Wolf Kahn, celebrated painter of resplendent landscapes, dies at 92," 19 Mar. 2020

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

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Canvas.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for canvas



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

Comments on canvas

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