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

oil, oil painting, painting

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Examples of canvas in a Sentence


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

Renoir’s canvases bound into your lap like a friendly puppy, Schjeldahl wrote then. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Now Renoir Is Problematic," 27 Aug. 2019 In the spacious interiors, walls are pared back to brick or sanded down to a palimpsest of paint layers resembling an expressionist canvas. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, "These 6 European Apartments Are Basically Private Design Hotels," 23 Aug. 2019 Prince was a champion of imagination in the theater and tried never to rely on technology to give his shows pop, preferring canvas to LEDs. Mark Kennedy, azcentral, "Harold Prince, Broadway legend who steered groundbreaking shows like 'Evita,' has died," 31 July 2019 Empire Seven’s shortlist included Nychos and the Sharks approved and commissioned the piece, with Modera providing the walls for a canvas and Whole Foods allowing the art team to use its parking lot for set-up (and providing food for the artists). Sal Pizarro, The Mercury News, "Shark mural looms large over Whole Foods lot near SAP Center," 30 July 2019 Her paintings in a series titled Tu casa, mi casa/Your Home, My Home are on canvases shaped like houses and include symbols such as boats, dresses and boxes. Darryl Ratcliff, Dallas News, "Latina artists in Dallas showcase 'were told ‘no,’ and they triumphed anyway’," 25 July 2019 That's because, as Larry Buchanan, Aaron Byrd, Alicia DeSantis and Emily Rhyne report, an estimated 1,165 of the famously upbeat painter’s canvases are hidden away in storage at Bob Ross Inc.’s northern Virginia headquarters. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "New Investigation Answers Pressing Question: Whatever Happened to All of Bob Ross’ Paintings?," 18 July 2019 The cooler shell is made of a nylon canvas and comes in solid colors with two dry side pockets—custom embroidery options are available. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "10 Things You Need to Beat the Heat," 17 July 2019 That fee includes paints, brushes, an apron, one 8-by-10 canvas and partial guidance. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, "From kitties to caving: 8 great ways for kids to spend rainy days in Louisville," 12 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 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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Learn More about canvas

Dictionary Entries near canvas






canvas board


Statistics for canvas

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for canvas

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

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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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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).


to make a temporary encampment

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