Definition of tarpaulin in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Heavy-duty waterproof cloth, originally of tarred canvas.

    ‘a stretch of roof is covered with tarpaulin’
    • ‘Red lanterns suspended from bamboo poles crisscross the streets while bamboo stalls topped with colorful tarpaulin litter the sidewalks.’
    • ‘The cause of the crash was not clear although a set of wheels came off the final carriage and investigators covered a set of points immediately behind the accident scene with blue tarpaulin, suggesting a fault on either train or track.’
    • ‘New Malden firefighters, sitting out during the strike in a hut made of wooden pallets and tarpaulin in front of the station, remained defiant but uncertain what the stoppage would bring.’
    • ‘And I have the greatest almost-garden thing of all - an almost-shed, which is lying underneath tarpaulin in 300 bits waiting to become a proper shed.’
    • ‘Eyewitnesses said the vehicle was covered in tarpaulin to prevent onlookers seeing the body.’
    • ‘Crews have covered the roof with salvage tarpaulin to protect the house from the weather while repairs are made.’
    • ‘No, they insist, quickly hiding paint pots under some nearby tarpaulin.’
    • ‘A 60-inch-high canopy stands over a chunk of a masonry wall now lying flat on a piece of bright blue plastic tarpaulin.’
    • ‘A quantity of drugs were recovered from the house and a high-value car, which was found covered by tarpaulin in the front garden, was removed to be stripped down and examined.’
    • ‘The option was of course, to down tools, rush off to the Hyper Value, buy a big piece of tarpaulin and cover the huge open space in our front wall.’
    • ‘The sun was quite low when the train pulled into another yard, and he had covered them with tarpaulin once again.’
    • ‘The three-and-a-half-hour struggle to make the area safe ended when the fire crews managed to get tarpaulin over the roof and made the ground debris safe.’
    • ‘They put up temporary housing made out of mud, out of bamboo, out of thatch, out of tarpaulin, out of corrugated steel.’
    • ‘Endless hours of coverage of a grey Wimbledon with green tarpaulin over the courts does little to promote the tournament as one of the great sporting events of the 21st century.’
    • ‘He said the remaining topsoil had been hosed down and covered with polythene and tarpaulin.’
    • ‘Conditions were hard with up to 10,000 people living in squalor under tarpaulin and surviving on corn meal and wheat.’
    • ‘Today there are 50 families living on the same stretch of pavement where she had erected a lean-to with tarpaulin in the early 1980s.’
    • ‘The tiles were covered in tarpaulin and pegged down while the police were informed.’
    • ‘In Kindamba he improvised a splint from palm branches and asked a carpenter to make another, around which tarpaulin would be wrapped.’
    • ‘Soldiers stood or sat on them and the vehicles were enclosed with tarpaulin.’
    1. 1.1[count noun]A sheet or covering of tarpaulin.
      ‘large tarpaulins were pulled over the hold’
      • ‘Local fire and ambulance officers have been receiving counselling this afternoon, and the State Emergency Service has taken water supplies and tarpaulins out to the crash site.’
      • ‘In November, we had incidents of people breaking through fencing and looking under tarpaulins to see if our wagons were loaded.’
      • ‘She then knelt down on the large tarpaulin protecting the floor and began to put the caps back on the dozens of watercolours she had carelessly left open.’
      • ‘He flowed down to the floor of the lifeboat and disappeared under the tarpaulin.’
      • ‘He was wearing a ripped coat, tied up with string at the waist, and he sat with his feet tucked under his legs on an exposed crate, the tarpaulin turned back neatly around him.’
      • ‘They've got the walls as solid as a rock and a roof on it under that tarpaulin.’
      • ‘Many homes in southwest Florida still have blue tarpaulins patching holes in their roofs after Charley, and some streets remain full of storm debris that could become wind-blown projectiles.’
      • ‘So while we're seeing a lot of tents and tarpaulins, we feel quite concerned about the winter, and want to ensure the longer-term shelter needs to get these good solid tents in.’
      • ‘The trucks were dusty and neglected, their tyres rotting and flat and sinking into the ground, but when the two ladies pulled back a tarpaulin, they found that the trucks were full of gems and precious stones and pearls and gold coins.’
      • ‘She heaved at the rolled up black tarpaulin, hoping that the rope would keep her tent together as it fell into her arms.’
      • ‘If, like me, you've been wondering why the wonderful new sculpture outside Bull's Head Car Park has been covered with a heavy green tarpaulin since its installation last year, wonder no more.’
      • ‘The shelters are basic - little more than wooden frames covered in tarpaulins to keep out the rain.’
      • ‘We spent the night out under the stars, about 30 of us rolled up in our tarpaulin, with a circle of colourful flags and our GE Free banners surrounding us.’
      • ‘He sheltered beneath the dripping tarpaulin of a news agent's for a while.’
      • ‘He was fast asleep, huddled under a canvas tarpaulin.’
      • ‘The shingles are no great problem; I've shaken hands on a deal to have the house and garage roof replaced in the autumn and if I get a major leak before then all I need do is make a call and they'll hop on over with a large blue tarpaulin.’
      • ‘Moments later he reappeared with a large plastic tarpaulin, a box of nails and several lengths of rough carcassing.’
      • ‘He rode alone before two large waggons, covered over with tarpaulins stretched on tall arches, pulled by double yokes of oxen.’
      • ‘The US military in Afghanistan loaded cargo planes with food, tarpaulins and other emergency aid to drop by parachute over areas of Pakistan, officials said.’
      • ‘The vandals also tried to reach 300 seats from Manchester City's former Maine Road ground which are protected by a large and heavy tarpaulin.’
      awning, tarpaulin, cowling, casing, housing
      View synonyms
  • 2historical A sailor's tarred or oilskin hat.

    • ‘A farmer is not exposed to falling ropes, or spars, or tackle-hence, does not need a stiff tarpaulin, like a sailor or a fireman.’
    1. 2.1archaic A sailor.


Early 17th century: probably from tar + pall + -ing.