Definition of canvas in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkanvəs/


[mass noun] (plural canvases or canvasses)
1A strong, coarse unbleached cloth made from hemp, flax, or a similar yarn, used to make items such as sails and tents and as a surface for oil painting: the painting is oil on canvas [as modifier]: a canvas bag
More example sentences
  • Fabrics such as twill, poplin, canvas, suede, denim and wool are also available in a variety of styles.
  • The fabrics include washed denims, soft poplins, heavy canvas, twills, and yarn-dyed plaids.
  • Herdsmen dwell in large tents made of canvas or woven yak wool.
1.1 [count noun] A piece of canvas prepared for use as the surface for an oil painting: they found a canvas and he seated his model he is used to painting large canvases
More example sentences
  • The larger pieces are completed on canvases while the smaller pieces use a wooden surface.
  • Coming prepared with several canvases already smudged with charcoal outlines she readied her supplies.
  • His hard-edged geometric paintings on diamond-shaped canvases were inspired by artists such as Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers.
1.2 [count noun] An oil painting: Turner’s late canvases
More example sentences
  • During the 1930s his work included large canvases depicting the life of working people in a style influenced by Picasso and Léger.
  • His colorful canvases often depict peasant life in Mexico, which he transformed into magical scenes.
  • The 40 canvasses, watercolours, drawings, photographs and sculptures all have a Thai ambiance, though not all subjects are landscapes.
1.3A variety of canvas with an open weave, used as a basis for tapestry and embroidery: she sent her needle stabbing in and out of the canvas
More example sentences
  • Tirianna carefully sneaked over to the tapestry and Sicirin pulled her beneath the embroidered canvas.
  • They may be school children but this does not stop them from weaving stories on canvas.
  • If politics was one thread weaving through the canvas of John MacKenna's young life, then teaching was another.
1.4 (the canvas) The canvas-covered floor of a boxing or wrestling ring: a thunderous uppercut sent him crashing to the canvas
More example sentences
  • The place where she's landed could be the canvas of a boxing ring, that's how happy she is to be home.
  • Jimmy twice had the iron jawed Bonevena on the canvas, something Joe Frazier could not do in 25 rounds of fighting.
  • From where I was sitting, I could see Tunney's back as Dempsey crumbled to the canvas.
1.5 [count noun] Either of a racing boat’s tapering ends, originally covered with canvas.
Example sentences
  • Two spots were available and coming out of the start four boats remained within a canvas of each other.
  • Pulling out a final sprint Todorovich and Popovic reduced a boat length deficit down to a canvas as they closed in on Greece.
  • However Great Britain had a true race on their hands as Slovenia put the pressure on staying within a canvas of Great Britain throughout the race.

verb (canvases, canvassing, canvassed; US canvases, canvasing, canvased)

[with object]
Cover with canvas: the door had been canvassed over



by a canvas

(In boat racing) by a very small margin.
Example sentences
  • First Denmark gained the leading edge, holding on to it, although only by a canvas over Olympic spare Djordje Visacki rowing in bow seat for Serbia & Montenegro.
  • This time they only beat us by a canvas (just the end bit of the boat with no people in it).
  • Here's the Selborne crew which beat Dale by a canvas in a thrilling race on the Buffalo River on Saturday: P le Roux, I McJannet, D Dennison, M Cole and J Bothma.

under canvas

1In a tent or tents: the family will be living under canvas
More example sentences
  • Tents are essentially small stately homes under canvas - teak furniture, proper beds, flush WCs, bucket showers, laundry service.
  • Make a tent - recreate the thrill of being under canvas by pegging old sheets or blankets over the washing line or rotary dryer and weighting them at the corners to create a tent.
  • Few things are more exciting to children than sleeping under canvas, particularly when there's a beach outside their tent flaps.
2With sails spread: fishermen whose boats still travel under canvas
More example sentences
  • In Cuyp's representation the tautness of their bent masts under canvas mimics the bulges of the cows' ribs through their slack hides.


Late Middle English: from Old Northern French canevas, based on Latin cannabis 'hemp', from Greek.

  • You can smoke cannabis (late 18th century), or, more legally, make canvas out of its fibre. The versatile cannabis plant, also known as hemp (ultimately from the same root), gives its name to the fabric, as both come from Latin cannabis. To win a race or competition by a canvas is to win it very narrowly. The canvas here is the tapered front end of a racing boat, covered with canvas to keep water out. In the early16th century the verb canvass meant ‘to toss someone in a canvas sheet’, as a punishment or as part of a game. Other early meanings included ‘to beat’ and ‘to criticize severely’. This led on to the idea of discussing an issue, and then to proposing something for discussion. Finally, the word acquired the meaning ‘to seek support’, as in ‘to canvass for votes’ at an election.

Words that rhyme with canvas


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: can¦vas

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