tar·​pau·​lin | \ tär-ˈpȯ-lən How to pronounce tarpaulin (audio) , ˈtär-pə-; nonstandard tär-ˈpōl-yən \
plural tarpaulins

Definition of tarpaulin

1 : a piece of material used especially for protecting exposed objects or areas : tarp The hatchways of some armed vessels are but poorly secured in bad weather. … They were merely spread over with an old tarpaulin, cracked and rent in every direction.— Herman Melville
2 dated : sailor "What does this here blessed tarpaulin go and do," said Mr. Peggotty, with his face one high noon of enjoyment, "but he loses that there art of his to our little Em'ly."— Charles Dickens The Englishman replied, like a rough tarpaulin, "They might starve; they should not plant nor build in that place."— Daniel Defoe

Examples of tarpaulin in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Leaky tents and a pink plastic tarpaulin offer scant shelter during daily tropical downpours. Los Angeles Times, "African migrants stuck in southern Mexico, their American dream on hold," 22 Sep. 2019 A thousand tarpaulins were to be distributed to replace roofs, the International Organization for Migration said. Ray Sanchez, CNN, "'There is nothing here': The future is uncertain for 70,000 in the Bahamas left homeless by Dorian," 8 Sep. 2019 People were pitching tarpaulin tents, spreading their meager belongings on the sand. New York Times, "The Schoolteacher and the Genocide," 8 Aug. 2019 White walls, roofs or tarpaulins, and extra vegetation in cities, all of which help prevent heat from building up, can be provided fairly cheaply. The Economist, "Heatwaves are killing people," 27 July 2019 Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh (CNN)When the monsoon rains hit southeast Bangladesh this week, Hafiz Ullah and his family abandoned their flimsy bamboo-and-tarpaulin-home to take shelter in a nearby school. Rebecca Wright, Cnn And Salman Saeed, CNN, "Monsoon floods sweep through world's biggest refugee camp," 11 July 2019 Japanese whalers – with their harpoons concealed beneath tarpaulin – left the port cities of Kushiro and Shimonoseki on Monday for the first commercial whale hunt in more than three decades. Fox News, "Japan resumes commercial whaling after 30 years -- despite low demand," 2 July 2019 Villagers fearing aftershocks could be seen camped by the thousands under makeshift blue tarpaulins held together with bamboo and sticks. Todd Pitman, The Seattle Times, "In quake-hit Indonesia, a challenge to recover the dead," 7 Aug. 2018 Bamboo and tarpaulin are all that the Rohingya — hundreds of thousands of whom crossed into Bangladesh after fleeing a military crackdown in Myanmar — have as shelter from the heavy rains and cyclones that lash the region each year. Vidhi Doshi, Washington Post, "‘Everything was destroyed’: Monsoon begins to take deadly toll on Rohingya camps in Bangladesh," 24 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tarpaulin.' 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 tarpaulin

1607, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tarpaulin

probably from tar entry 1 + -palling, -pauling (from pall)

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Time Traveler for tarpaulin

Time Traveler

The first known use of tarpaulin was in 1607

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Statistics for tarpaulin

Last Updated

23 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Tarpaulin.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tarpaulin. Accessed 17 January 2020.

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More Definitions for tarpaulin


How to pronounce tarpaulin (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of tarpaulin

: a large piece of waterproof material (such as plastic or canvas) that is used to cover things and keep them dry


tar·​pau·​lin | \ tär-ˈpȯ-lən How to pronounce tarpaulin (audio) , ˈtär-pə-lən \

Kids Definition of tarpaulin

: a sheet of waterproof canvas

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tarpaulin

Spanish Central: Translation of tarpaulin

Nglish: Translation of tarpaulin for Spanish Speakers

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a plan in which a last survivor takes all

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