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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 canvasser
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The canvasser creeps to the house of his fellow-conspirator carrying a make-up in a bag.

    All Things Considered G. K. Chesterton
  • Of course, their canvasser called to see you, didn't he, Kenyon?'

    A Woman Intervenes Robert Barr
  • The canvasser, when he wants to know a man's opinions, goes and asks him.

    All Things Considered G. K. Chesterton
  • I needn't have taken the job of canvasser in the first place.

    Mary Louise and Josie O'Gorman Emma Speed Sampson
  • "Don't quarrel on my account, gentlemen," the canvasser said as he puffed at his cigar.

    Abe and Mawruss Montague Glass
  • canvasser Fulda moved to lay the resolution on the table—lost.

  • The man stared back at H. R. and, with the canvasser's professional look of congratulation, replied, "A gold brick!"

    H. R. Edwin Lefevre
British Dictionary definitions for canvasser


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 canvasser



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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