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can·​vas ˈkan-vəs How to pronounce canvas (audio)
variants or less commonly canvass
plural canvases also canvasses
: a firm closely woven cloth usually of linen, hemp, or cotton used for clothing and formerly much used for tents and sails
: a piece of cloth backed or framed as a surface for a painting
an artist's canvas
also : the painting on such a surface
: 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
: the background, setting, or scope of a historical or fictional account or narrative
the crowded canvas of history
: a piece of canvas used for a particular purpose
a hammock made of canvas
: tent
also : a group of tents
: a set of sails : sail
sailing under full canvas
: a stiff material (as of coarse cloth or plastic) that has regular meshes for working with a needle (as in needlepoint)
: the canvas-covered floor of a boxing or wrestling ring
canvaslike adjective


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canvased or canvassed; canvasing or canvassing

transitive verb

: to cover, line, or furnish with canvas

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
The builder and woodworker Mark Ellison (part of a construction team that also included Adam Marelli and Bob Chan) helped engineer the staircase and created a bespoke contraption for winching heavy canvases up its center. Alice Newell-Hanson, New York Times, 21 Sep. 2023 Years later, Degas replaced the section of canvas cut off by Manet, intending to repaint it. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, 21 Sep. 2023 Supposedly, stain painting, where liquid acrylics are poured directly onto raw canvas, was art’s next logical step after Abstract Expressionism. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 20 Sep. 2023 Their styles are all created in the same tone of off-white, a blank canvas waiting to be filled with stains and rips and creases. José Criales-Unzueta, Vogue, 19 Sep. 2023 The blank canvases that were supposed to feature real money symbolizing the average annual incomes of two countries. Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News, 19 Sep. 2023 But instead of receiving a recreation of the original works, the museum opened the artwork to find two blank canvases with a new collective name: Take the Money and Run. Byryan Hogg, Fortune, 19 Sep. 2023 Its plain white canvas offers an opportunity to experiment with statement footwear, like these gorgeous amber Lucite wedge sandals by SimonMiller. Harper's BAZAAR, 8 Sep. 2023 Broke and getting by as a studio assistant in New York, her work pants were a low-stakes canvas. Ferron Salniker, Los Angeles Times, 13 Sep. 2023
Tuesday night, a few dozen community members met at the trail to canvas the surrounding neighborhoods of the Bel Air trail with flyers showing images from the video and containing information about the case in both English and Spanish. Dillon Mullan, Baltimore Sun, 6 Sep. 2023 Alarmed, the students found Bailey, a public safety officer who was making his routine rounds canvasing the campus. Curtis Bunn, NBC News, 28 Aug. 2023 Following the April 19, 1993 fire, after authorities had finished canvasing the scene, what little that remained of Mount Carmel was bulldozed. Alyssa Fiorentino, House Beautiful, 20 Apr. 2023 Milwaukee County will also canvas the totals. Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 16 Feb. 2022 Among the groups responding to an uptick of gun violence in Chicago is BUILD, an organization that deploys intervention teams to canvas hot spots, a crisis response unit that supports survivors and families of victims, as well as therapists and case managers who support over 200 families. Dave Collins, Star Tribune, 24 June 2021 Most of the time, human searchers canvas a project, walking transects under turbines or through solar fields. Emma Foehringer Merchant, WIRED, 11 Feb. 2023 From body reinforcement through mechanism design and fabrication to canvas top-making tasks, every aspect of the work is handled in-house by Zadeh's 15-member team. Barry Winfield, Car and Driver, 2 Jan. 2023 AirBeams were used to canvas the city in each ward and on multiple modes of transport. Calvin Cupini, Discover Magazine, 11 Jan. 2020 See More

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

Word History


Noun and Verb

Middle English canevas, from Anglo-French canevas, chanevaz, from Vulgar Latin *cannabaceus hempen, from Latin cannabis hemp — more at cannabis

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1556, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near canvas

Cite this Entry

“Canvas.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a strong cloth of hemp, flax, or cotton used for clothing and formerly much used for tents and sails
: a piece of cloth used as a surface for painting
also : a painting on such a surface
: something made of canvas
: a stiff material (as of coarse cloth or plastic) that has regular meshes for working with a needle (as in needlepoint)

More from Merriam-Webster on canvas

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