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[kan-vuh s] /ˈkæn vəs/
a closely woven, heavy cloth of cotton, hemp, or linen, used for tents, sails, etc.
a piece of this or similar material on which a painting is made.
a painting on canvas.
a tent, or tents collectively.
sails collectively.
any fabric of linen, cotton, or hemp of a coarse loose weave used as a foundation for embroidery stitches, interlining, etc.
the floor of a boxing ring traditionally consisting of a canvas covering stretched over a mat.
under canvas,
  1. Nautical. with set sails.
  2. in tents; in the field:
    the troops under canvas.
Origin of canvas
1225-75; Middle English canevas < Anglo-French, Old North French < Vulgar Latin *cannabāceus (noun use of adj.), equivalent to Latin cannab(is) hemp + -āceus -aceous
Related forms
canvaslike, adjective
Can be confused
canvas, canvass. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for canvas
  • She posts time-lapse videos of herself painting small works on canvas.
  • When they cannot say what they feel in their painting, they resort to simply writing words about what they feel on the canvas.
  • University architects use it as a canvas on which to explore design.
  • In the next image in the series the canvas has been slashed and the surface coloured with pigment.
  • Decorate a canvas tote for your parents to use at the grocery store in place of plastic bags.
  • But what is true is that canvas umbrellas at the beach would do a pretty good job doing their actual job blocking the sun.
  • Each canvas represented a long, morose gestation spent in solitary thought.
  • Dress up a few lanterns with ribbon, add some sunny fabric, and your plain canvas umbrella is ready to party.
  • The studio originally had a canvas roof, later replaced.
  • Technicians can date paint from its chemical composition, for example, or x-ray a canvas to reveal what lies below the surface.
British Dictionary definitions for canvas


  1. a heavy durable cloth made of cotton, hemp, or jute, used for sails, tents, etc
  2. (as modifier): a canvas bag
  1. a piece of canvas or a similar material on which a painting is done, usually in oils
  2. a painting on this material, esp in oils
a tent or tents collectively
(nautical) any cloth of which sails are made
(nautical) the sails of a vessel collectively
any coarse loosely woven cloth on which embroidery, tapestry, etc, is done
the canvas, the floor of a boxing or wrestling ring
(rowing) the tapering covered part at either end of a racing boat, sometimes referred to as a unit of length: to win by a canvas
under canvas
  1. in tents
  2. (nautical) with sails unfurled
Word Origin
C14: from Norman French canevas, ultimately from Latin cannabis hemp
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 canvas

"sturdy cloth made from hemp or flax," mid-14c., from Anglo-French canevaz, Old North French canevach, Old French chanevaz, literally "made of hemp, hempen," noun use of Vulgar Latin adjective *cannapaceus "made of hemp," from Latin cannabis, from Greek kannabis "hemp," a Scythian or Thracian word (see cannabis).

Latin adjectives in -aceus sometimes were made in Romanic languages into nouns of augmentative or pejorative force. Especially as a surface for oil paintings from c.1700; hence "an oil painting" (1764).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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