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 The acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas will be displayed from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the gallery for one day only. Ed Masley, The Arizona Republic, 10 June 2021 Most of my work has employed traditional materials, using oil paint on canvas in an attempt to create the most lifelike rendition possible of my subjects. Tim Okamura, Washington Post, 2 June 2021 Houston artist Ange Hillz is implementing that same kind of activism, just on canvas. Shelby Stewart, Chron, 1 June 2021 Being beaten badly, worse this Game 3 in many ways than the staggering Game 2, Bam Adebayo sat on the bench with the dazed look of a fighter laid out on the canvas, seeing the world before him but seemingly not focusing on it. Dave Hyde,, 27 May 2021 The oil on canvas of the al fresco gathering that Mr. Phillips purchased in 1923 epitomizes the joy of human connection. New York Times, 21 May 2021 This approach is quite evident in the oil-on-canvas work Lamp (1916). John Zotos, Dallas News, 7 May 2021 On the undercard of Mike Tyson’s comeback fight against Roy Jones Jr. on Nov. 28, Paul landed a crushing right hand that left Robinson face down on the canvas and unconscious. Josh Peter, USA TODAY, 14 Apr. 2021 No player, at his best, plays a more artistically pleasing game than McIlroy, but the colors have not quite fit together on the canvas of late. Vsin Staff, Los Angeles Times, 8 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Because these are private spaces, those who are conducting the count don’t canvas the people there. Valeria Ricciulli, Curbed, 28 May 2021 Officers continued to canvas the area and discovered a 32-year-old man on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head, and he also was taken in critical condition to the same hospital where he was pronounced dead. Deanese Williams-harris,, 15 May 2021 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, 11 Apr. 2021 Plainclothes detectives will canvas the neighborhood for any potential leads. Michael Mcdaniel, The Arizona Republic, 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,, 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, 28 Dec. 2020 Investigators will canvas retailers that sell precursor chemicals and websites like eBay or Craigslist. Dakin Andone, CNN, 26 Dec. 2020 More than 500 people gathered to canvas the area to look for her, but she was never found. Morgan Baila,, 14 Dec. 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

13 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Canvas.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 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


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