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

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 : 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 Los Angeles also offered a blank canvas to create art. Alex Williams, New York Times, "Kim Gordon’s Other Life," 14 Sep. 2019 The world of Downton is opened up on a larger canvas, showing us more of the village and the interior of other grand estates. Julie Washington,, "Royal visit adds pomp to ‘Downton Abbey’ the movie: Review," 17 Sep. 2019 On Sunday, Out of Town News stood amidst throngs of people enjoying a beautiful late-summer day: Music played, a street artist worked on a canvas, and passersby stopped to look at titles in the newsstand racks., "CAMBRIDGE — Time may be finally running out for the Harvard Square landmark Out of Town News, after its owner recently said he won’t renew the newsstand’s lease and will close its doors by the end of October.," 16 Sep. 2019 The later canvases, made as recently as 1996, boast the impeccable finishes, smooth tonal transitions, rich reddish-black backdrops and beguiling luminosity of great oil paintings from 500 years ago. Washington Post, "In the galleries: The heady works of Soriano at OAS Art Museum of the Americas," 13 Sep. 2019 The result is an audio-visual bonanza told on a huge canvas, alternately psychedelic, baffling, gorgeous, soul-crushing, and hilarious. Peter Opaskar, Ars Technica, "Apocalypse Now Final Cut," 31 Aug. 2019 Pick a point—any point—on the canvas, and try to hold your focus. Duff Mcdonald, WIRED, "The Cosmic, Psychedelic, Glow-in-the-Dark Art of Alex Aliume," 20 Aug. 2019 The early explorers, fur trappers and prospectors who opened up Alaska traveled mostly with some tattered canvas, a sleeping bag and a pot. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s early explorers were tough buzzards when it came to traveling and camping," 6 Aug. 2019 The victims whose belongings did somehow survive—collections that resurfaced, canvases that were reclaimed—were often prominent collectors, the works Klimts and Chagalls. James Mcauley, Town & Country, "The Haunting of Paris: Georges Mandel and the Long Legacy of Nazi Violence," 6 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 The Coast Guard continued Wednesday to canvas the Atlantic shoreline, combing through trash and debris fields from northern Brevard to the Carolinas. J.d. Gallop, USA TODAY, "Rescue teams battle time and Gulf Stream current in search for firefighters missing at sea," 21 Aug. 2019 Volunteers and staff from the city, county and nonprofits canvass the county to find anyone who might fit the definition of homelessness to put together a census., "Multnomah County sees 20% more people sleeping outside in latest homeless count," 1 Aug. 2019 His Saturday itinerary includes events in Manchester, Nashua, and Exeter, N.H., In Manchester, Booker joined incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig to help rally supporters and canvas the city in support of Craig’s reelection campaign. Jeremy C. Fox,, "Cory Booker courts N.H. voters," 13 July 2019 Berry, 30, should wait until after the preseason starts and canvas the league for a landing spot. Ryan O'halloran, The Denver Post, "Broncos Mailbag: Will receiver Courtland Sutton have a breakout year in 2019?," 25 June 2019 Charter operators pay hundreds of dollars a day to anchor on the river while CBP agents canvass their ships with dogs. Rowan Moore Gerety, Harper's magazine, "Downstream," 10 June 2019 Police canvased the neighborhood, but did not find the source of the disturbance. Joan Rusek,, "Man breaks into house he thought was his friend’s: Bainbridge Township Police Blotter," 5 June 2019 The use of the commercial site allowed investigators to virtually canvas a new pool of possible suspects, which included relatives of the killer. Anita Chabria And Ryan Sabalow, sacbee, "Can DNA identify the Zodiac Killer now that it has revealed the East Area Rapist suspect?," 3 May 2018

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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Statistics for canvas

Last Updated

6 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for canvas

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

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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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Comments on canvas

What made you want to look up canvas? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something of little or no value

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