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[kan-vuh s] /ˈkæn vəs/
verb (used with object)
to solicit votes, subscriptions, opinions, or the like from.
to examine carefully; investigate by inquiry; discuss; debate.
verb (used without object)
to solicit votes, opinions, or the like.
a soliciting of votes, orders, or the like.
a campaign for election to government office.
close inspection; scrutiny.
Origin of canvass
1500-10; orig. spelling variant of canvas, as a v.; sense “discuss” apparently development of the earlier senses “toss in a canvas sheet,” “harshly criticize”; sense “solicit votes” obscurely derived
Related forms
canvasser, noun
precanvass, verb (used with object), noun
uncanvassed, adjective
undercanvass, verb
well-canvassed, adjective
Can be confused
canvas, canvass.
2. analyze, scrutinize, explore. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for canvass
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • At the very end of the canvass a chance remark may have decided the result.

    The New Nation Frederic L. Paxson
  • In speaking of the canvass that was set, I ought to have said something of the state of our decks.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • My sentiments are neither divine oracles nor theological opinions which it is not permitted to canvass.

    Letters To Eugenia Paul Henri Thiry Holbach
  • This time we were questioned about canvass, but got off by concealing the truth.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • He had the audacity to speak, think, and write, as if he were entitled to canvass affairs of State.

    Sir Walter Ralegh William Stebbing
  • A canvass of the town in February, 1901, showed that 96 per cent.

  • He was easily caricatured—but difficult to represent as he was, in marble or on canvass.

  • I had ample time to scan his features and canvass their every lineament.

British Dictionary definitions for canvass


to solicit votes, orders, advertising, etc, from
to determine the feelings and opinions of (voters before an election, etc), esp by conducting a survey
to investigate (something) thoroughly, esp by discussion or debate
(mainly US) to inspect (votes) officially to determine their validity
a solicitation of opinions, votes, sales orders, etc
close inspection; scrutiny
Derived Forms
canvasser, noun
canvassing, noun
Word Origin
C16: probably from obsolete sense of canvas (to toss someone in a canvas sheet, hence, to harass, criticize); the development of current senses is unexplained
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for canvass

c.1500, from alternative spelling of canvas (n.) and probably meaning, originally, "to toss or sift in a canvas sheet," hence "to shake out, examine carefully" (1520s); "to solicit votes" (1550s). The spelling with a double -s- dates from 16c. Cf. Old French canabasser "to examine carefully," literally "to sift through canvas." Related: Canvassed; canvassing. As a noun related to this, attested from c.1600.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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