Definition of canvas in English:



  • 1[mass noun] A 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’
    • ‘The cast members will be subsisting on 1897 type supplies: canvas tents, no mosquito repellent, canned and dry goods.’
    • ‘As he walked a little farther into the room he looked at the two beanbag shaped chairs made of unbleached cotton canvas which were placed on either side of the table and then he went over and sat in one.’
    • ‘The camp is a level, dusty wilderness, the barren sameness of the plain broken only by row upon regimented row of bleached canvas tents.’
    • ‘Under the dripping red and white striped canvas of her tent, the secretary of Appleby Show summed up the day.’
    • ‘The attack came as hundreds of troops were eating lunch under a large dining tent constructed of canvas and metal.’
    • ‘Leather is a key material for the season, along with parachute silk, cotton poplin, cotton canvas and shining silk.’
    • ‘Dacron sails have also largely replaced canvas sailcloth.’
    • ‘Each ship was carrying gunpowder and the ships were made of wood with canvas sails.’
    • ‘Ropes, canvas, tent poles, rugs, and oil for lamps were all there.’
    • ‘Eventually he saw them; the large wooden wagons covered with heavy canvas cloth and drawn by oxen.’
    • ‘Most of the miners lived in canvas tents, some of them large enough to accommodate several men, and there were a few log cabins.’
    • ‘Fabrics such as twill, poplin, canvas, suede, denim and wool are also available in a variety of styles.’
    • ‘On a private patch of island we have a large green canvas safari tent.’
    • ‘Herdsmen dwell in large tents made of canvas or woven yak wool.’
    • ‘Bingham sprang from the car, hauling an old blue and gold canvas duffle bag.’
    • ‘Behind them hundreds of canvas tents stretch into the flat spaces of the desert.’
    • ‘Sailcloth is a very strong, heavy canvas or duck made in plain weave.’
    • ‘Cover shrubs, the ground, and walkways with canvas drop cloths.’
    • ‘The fabrics include washed denims, soft poplins, heavy canvas, twills, and yarn-dyed plaids.’
    • ‘He makes a detailed drawing before he starts painting with oils on canvas or linen.’
    1. 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’
      • ‘Very few of Klimt's paintings were done on canvases, as he preferred to paint murals.’
      • ‘Once the canvas is prepared, the size and texture of the canvas determines the subject of the piece.’
      • ‘Coming prepared with several canvases already smudged with charcoal outlines she readied her supplies.’
      • ‘Ever resourceful, she has even discovered a supplier of prepared canvasses and water based oil paint in Naklua.’
      • ‘His hard-edged geometric paintings on diamond-shaped canvases were inspired by artists such as Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers.’
      • ‘In the Black Paintings of Frank Stella, symmetry locks the image to the surface of the canvas.’
      • ‘There is at least a tacit nod to the unprepared canvases of Color Field paintings.’
      • ‘Some pieces incorporate canvases printed with archival photographs - anonymous aerial views and street scenes.’
      • ‘The final piece is a blank canvas accompanied by a block of dense text larger than the work itself.’
      • ‘It is more difficult upon a piece of white paper to deceive the expert spectator than it is with a lot of oil paint upon a canvas.’
      • ‘Fuzzy black material on the canvas's surface creates high relief topped by white paint, as in a model of choppy waters seen from above.’
      • ‘The piece is divided into two separate canvases so that if the Blumenthals ever move to a home with lower ceilings, they can still display the artwork.’
      • ‘The larger pieces are completed on canvases while the smaller pieces use a wooden surface.’
      • ‘The second group consists of abstract paintings on stretched canvases.’
      • ‘Both Warhol and Rauschenberg extended the technique by screenprinting a design onto a canvas to serve as the basis of a painting.’
      • ‘Each student has produced a painting on a circular canvas, a linocut, two ceramic plates, and a piece of text.’
      • ‘From the center of the room, both small and large pieces looked like pulled fabric across a canvas.’
      • ‘His show's roughly two dozen pieces offered up his standard menu of hectic and deliberately crude brushwork on ratty-looking unstretched canvases.’
      • ‘For this technique the canvas was usually prepared with no more than a preliminary coating of glue size.’
      • ‘The first parcel arrived, but it contained paintings on thin canvases, and the range of colours was limited to those that Eli Jah had been able to obtain.’
    2. 1.2[count noun] An oil painting:
      ‘Turner's late canvases’
      • ‘The 40 canvasses, watercolours, drawings, photographs and sculptures all have a Thai ambiance, though not all subjects are landscapes.’
      • ‘A conceptual dimension arises from Caillouet's addition of words imprinted in the surfaces of her monochrome canvases, which are shown in multipaneled groups.’
      • ‘The resulting painterly effects evoke old-master canvases as well as introductory chapters in the history of photography.’
      • ‘Below it is the Cubist Gallery, filled with canvases by Picasso, Braque, and Gris as well as sculptures by Matisse and Giacometti.’
      • ‘Another show sporting canvases with geometric surfaces is Simon Ingram's Garden at Vavasour Godkin.’
      • ‘Also included in the exhibition are canvasses by Gauguin and a late ‘Bathers’ by Cezanne.’
      • ‘Even today, Gauguin's canvases strike viewers with their raw power, and not surprisingly they shocked Parisian audiences of his own time.’
      • ‘He published three books of poetry, painted landscapes and abstract expressionist canvases, and played what he called cowboy harmonica for just about anyone who would listen.’
      • ‘They left with a dozen paintings - including canvases by Rembrandt, Manet, Degas and Vermeer - worth a staggering $300m.’
      • ‘These vibrant color fields have an affinity with the spiritual-esthetic aura of Mark Rothko's canvases.’
      • ‘She activates the luscious surfaces of her mostly poured and splashed oil-and-alkyd canvases by means of clashing colors and textures.’
      • ‘The show also featured earlier work: six canvases and four smaller pastel drawings.’
      • ‘This exhibition brings together seven of J.M.W. Turner's large canvases along with 96 watercolors, a number of which are related to the paintings.’
      • ‘His colorful canvases often depict peasant life in Mexico, which he transformed into magical scenes.’
      • ‘This is most notable in the new sense of a journey across the paintings, from dawn to bright daylight to night, revealed after the removal of the dark varnishes on the canvases by Muller and Delacroix.’
      • ‘In the course of that summer, he completed 30 canvases and 20 drawings; Matisse around half that number.’
      • ‘This sort of abstract illusionism brings to mind certain early canvases by Bridget Riley.’
      • ‘Unabashedly physical, the surfaces of Bhavsar's canvases luxuriate in a granular abundance of color.’
      • ‘During the 1930s his work included large canvases depicting the life of working people in a style influenced by Picasso and Léger.’
      • ‘It's a little as if each hard-edged shape in her precisely chaotic canvases were a piece extracted from an entirely different jigsaw puzzle.’
      Painting, picture, drawing, sketch, likeness, image, study, representation, portrayal, depiction, canvas
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 A 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I could see the weave of the canvas underneath in places.’
      • ‘Tirianna carefully sneaked over to the tapestry and Sicirin pulled her beneath the embroidered canvas.’
    4. 1.4the canvas The canvas-covered floor of a boxing or wrestling ring:
      ‘a thunderous uppercut sent him crashing to the canvas’
      • ‘Within the first minute Chavez walked into a Morales right uppercut and he hit the canvas.’
      • ‘In their first meeting, Zulu knocked out Kamanga in the first round but the challenger accused Zulu of wrestling him to the canvas.’
      • ‘Jimmy twice had the iron jawed Bonevena on the canvas, something Joe Frazier could not do in 25 rounds of fighting.’
      • ‘Then it comes, one of the most vicious right uppercuts I've ever seen, and lands flush on Frazier's chin and he sinks to the canvas.’
      • ‘The floor is filthy, there are piles of rubbish in the corners and the canvas of the ring itself is stained with blood.’
      • ‘He was open to a counter and Chi connected with a great right to the body and a big left uppercut that sent Brodie down to the canvas and looking in pain.’
      • ‘Shortly before the bout took place, torrential rain fell and the canvas was drenched.’
      • ‘In the fourth round, Liston finally connected and sent Martin to the canvas.’
      • ‘Ingle was out cold the second the left hook connected with his chin and he was motionless on the canvas as his corner men, paramedics and doctors scrambled through the ropes to save his life.’
      • ‘The place where she's landed could be the canvas of a boxing ring, that's how happy she is to be home.’
      • ‘In less than five minutes, both fighters hit the canvas eleven times and Dempsey was knocked out of the ring.’
      • ‘The other times Louis hit the canvas was a result of what is commonly referred to as a flash knockdown.’
      • ‘From where I was sitting, I could see Tunney's back as Dempsey crumbled to the canvas.’
      • ‘So when I stepped into the ring of Swindon's 4 Front Wrestling and found blood stains covering the canvas I didn't exactly feel comfortable.’
    5. 1.5[count noun] Either of a racing boat's tapering ends, originally covered with canvas.
      • ‘Only 250 metres was left and the United States had barely a canvas over Great Britain.’
      • ‘In the final sprint barely a canvas separated Germany, Estonia and Great Britain with this order remaining the same at the finish.’
      • ‘China and Russia made a race of the women's pair C final crossing the line within half a canvas of each other - China in front.’
      • ‘In Lucerne it was a dead heat with Italy and in Munich barely a canvas separated them and Belarus.’
      • ‘Pulling out a final sprint Todorovich and Popovic reduced a boat length deficit down to a canvas as they closed in on Greece.’
      • ‘He kept the heat on Hungary right to the line finishing a mere canvas behind.’
      • ‘But France heard the call and responded giving just enough to cross the finish line a mere canvas ahead of Great Britain.’
      • ‘New Zealand had the best of the start holding half a canvas at 500 gone.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Two spots were available and coming out of the start four boats remained within a canvas of each other.’


  • Cover with canvas:

    ‘the door had been canvassed over’
    solicit, seek, drum up
    View synonyms


  • by a canvas

    • (in boat racing) by a very small margin.

      • ‘This time they only beat us by a canvas (just the end bit of the boat with no people in it).’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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’
      • ‘Tents are essentially small stately homes under canvas - teak furniture, proper beds, flush WCs, bucket showers, laundry service.’
      • ‘Great temporary camps were formed, at Turton, Edgworth, Doffcocker and Heaton, where thousands of soldiers lived under canvas.’
      • ‘With a team of 15 other students and staff from Bury Grammar School, the 17-year-old from Norden will sleep under canvas for a month to make a better environment for a chosen village.’
      • ‘Lying awake at 5: 30 a.m. on a rapidly deflating airbed in a freezing field at Stoke Poges is not conducive to starting you out on a life under canvas, although it did seem to be for others.’
      • ‘The girls slept under canvas and cooked their own meals over a campfire.’
      • ‘Few things are more exciting to children than sleeping under canvas, particularly when there's a beach outside their tent flaps.’
      • ‘Accommodation is under canvas or in remote shepherds' huts.’
      • ‘The expedition will give the cadets the opportunity to develop skills in hiking, cycling, kayaking, orienteering and living under canvas.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If, however, you don't fancy a night under canvas, why not book into a local B&B or stay in Perth or Edinburgh and use the shuttle buses?’
    • 2With sails spread:

      ‘fishermen whose boats still travel under canvas’
      • ‘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.