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 The story offers you a wide emotional canvas for exploration, most of which is not concerned with the actual violent encounter. Jennifer Vineyard, New York Times, "How the ‘Outlander’ Team Managed That Shocking Season Finale," 10 May 2020 This kind of setup isn’t the most obvious canvas for a comedy. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Hell of a Man-Made Heaven," 7 May 2020 However, our stitchers are working from their homes trying to complete the canvases for the balcony. oregonlive, "Volunteers produce 15 million stitches, over three decades, for Portland church: Oregon Lives podcast," 29 Apr. 2020 Exfoliating with a peel, however, creates a perfect canvas for the rest of your at-home facial. Katie Berohn, Good Housekeeping, "7 Expert Tips to Give Yourself the Best At-Home Facial Possible," 17 Apr. 2020 So, she's gotten creative and has decided to have some fun with it -- by making her boyfriend the canvas for her masterful creations. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "A hairstylist is using her spare time to turn her boyfriend into Princess Leia and Joe Exotic," 4 Apr. 2020 For decades, brick walls and concrete viaducts have served as canvases for splashy murals and street art in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, about three miles southwest of the Loop. Kate Silver, Washington Post, "In Chicago, muralist Hebru Brantley’s outdoor art moves inside," 13 Mar. 2020 His storytelling is what gave Wyeth his fame, and what has inspired storytellers for decades since his brush left the canvas for the last time. Madeline Mitchell,, "Taft Museum of Art features artist who inspired 'Star Wars' and 'Game of Thrones' creators," 6 Feb. 2020 What Ford ultimately put on that canvas for the new Mach-E became a company-wide effort when executives decided in 2018 that the new e-vehicle would be a Mustang. Jennifer Alsever, Fortune, "The Sound of Silence: Why Automakers Are Changing the Noise That Electric Vehicles (Don’t) Make," 8 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 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

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

4 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Canvas.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 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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