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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web After powerful earthquakes struck southern Turkey, Eylem Sahutoglu and her family endured two weeks of freezing nights under a blue tarpaulin. Nimet Kirac, New York Times, 24 Feb. 2023 This is a multi-purpose bucket that is made from premium 500D tarpaulin and double-stitched seams to keep working for a long time. Chris Hachey, BGR, 18 Mar. 2021 With their homes damaged, the family is living together under a tarpaulin. Louisa Loveluck, Washington Post, 11 Feb. 2023 Then the rain comes, slow at first, then hard enough to have the tarpaulin rolled back into place. Debbi Snook, cleveland, 3 Feb. 2023 The people of the village gathered as the sacks were laid out on a blue tarpaulin. Roger Cohen Mauricio Lima, New York Times, 24 Dec. 2022 The inside is lined with water-resistant tarpaulin and has a padded lining to protect all of your gear. Déjà Leonard, Popular Mechanics, 17 Jan. 2023 One day my horse was much frightened at a drilling machine covered by a tarpaulin and lying on an open field. Kat Mcgowan, Discover Magazine, 29 Feb. 2012 Fully covered in blue tarpaulin, the statue is supposed to represent the Common Man. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 26 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

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 28 Mar. 2023.

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

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