tar·​pau·​lin tär-ˈpȯ-lən How to pronounce tarpaulin (audio)
 nonstandard  tär-ˈpōl-yən
plural tarpaulins
: 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
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 Meanwhile, Addi has laid out a feast of oats on the tarpaulin under a tree for shade. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, 18 Jan. 2024 The fire, which started around 2 p.m., consumed several thousand bamboo and tarpaulin shelters, as well as facilities like hospitals and schools, until it was put out by Rohingya and Bangladeshi firefighters around 5:30 p.m., local authorities said. Rebecca Tan, Washington Post, 6 Mar. 2023 Following the appearance of the threat, the San Bernardino group canceled its concert at the Estadio Caliente in Tijuana, as did Peso Pluma weeks earlier, after having received the same death threat on a tarpaulin signed with the initials CJNG, alluding to the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación. Isabela Raygoza, Billboard, 9 Feb. 2024 The padding is cushiony, and the exterior waterproof tarpaulin and Robic 1680-denier ballistic nylon materials have held up extremely well over time. Scott Gilbertson, WIRED, 28 Nov. 2023 At sunrise, mist lifted to reveal several hundred bamboo and tarpaulin shelters clinging to muddy hillsides. Yan Naing, Washington Post, 7 Nov. 2023 Some families fashioned makeshift shelters from plastic tarpaulins or bedsheets. Abdi Latif Dahir Joao Silva, New York Times, 7 Sep. 2023 With nowhere to go and no money to rent an apartment, many including Savita’s family had no choice but to live under tarpaulin sheets on the rugged land, even as torrential rains and floods battered the city. Rhea Mogul, CNN, 5 Sep. 2023 Some of the larger items that will be exempt from sales taxes include a portable generator with a sales price of $3,000 or less, a tarpaulin or another kind of waterproof sheeting with a sales price of $100 or below, and a ground anchor system totaling $100 or less. Eden Villalovas, Washington Examiner, 28 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tarpaulin.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1607, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tarpaulin was in 1607

Dictionary Entries Near tarpaulin

Cite this Entry

“Tarpaulin.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tarpaulin. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


tar·​pau·​lin tär-ˈpȯ-lən How to pronounce tarpaulin (audio) ˈtär-pə- How to pronounce tarpaulin (audio)
: a piece of material (as waterproof canvas) used for protecting exposed objects

More from Merriam-Webster on tarpaulin

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!