Definition of tarpaulin in English:



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

    ‘a stretch of roof is covered with tarpaulin’
    • ‘The tiles were covered in tarpaulin and pegged down while the police were informed.’
    • ‘He said the remaining topsoil had been hosed down and covered with polythene and tarpaulin.’
    • ‘The sun was quite low when the train pulled into another yard, and he had covered them with tarpaulin once again.’
    • ‘They put up temporary housing made out of mud, out of bamboo, out of thatch, out of tarpaulin, out of corrugated steel.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In Kindamba he improvised a splint from palm branches and asked a carpenter to make another, around which tarpaulin would be wrapped.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Red lanterns suspended from bamboo poles crisscross the streets while bamboo stalls topped with colorful tarpaulin litter the sidewalks.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Eyewitnesses said the vehicle was covered in tarpaulin to prevent onlookers seeing the body.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A 60-inch-high canopy stands over a chunk of a masonry wall now lying flat on a piece of bright blue plastic tarpaulin.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Soldiers stood or sat on them and the vehicles were enclosed with tarpaulin.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1count 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Moments later he reappeared with a large plastic tarpaulin, a box of nails and several lengths of rough carcassing.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They've got the walls as solid as a rock and a roof on it under that tarpaulin.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He sheltered beneath the dripping tarpaulin of a news agent's for a while.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In November, we had incidents of people breaking through fencing and looking under tarpaulins to see if our wagons were loaded.’
      • ‘He flowed down to the floor of the lifeboat and disappeared under the tarpaulin.’
      • ‘He rode alone before two large waggons, covered over with tarpaulins stretched on tall arches, pulled by double yokes of oxen.’
      • ‘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 US military in Afghanistan loaded cargo planes with food, tarpaulins and other emergency aid to drop by parachute over areas of Pakistan, officials said.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She heaved at the rolled up black tarpaulin, hoping that the rope would keep her tent together as it fell into her arms.’
      • ‘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.’
      awning, 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.