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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for canvasses
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He must cling to his studio, hold desperately to this atmosphere of paint and canvasses.

  • She was in the state in which his canvasses sometimes are, when he cannot paint on them.

    The Newcomes William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Si showed both boys how to take their canvasses and sling them.

    Fighting in Cuban Waters Edward Stratemeyer
  • His canvasses were myriad and he crowded every one of them with figures.

  • I admit there are dead pictures, too many of them, but they are the canvasses that were still-born.

    Read-Aloud Plays Horace Holley
  • Rossetti used to call my pictures pot-boilers,” he said, “but they are all—all”—and he waved his arm to the canvasses—“symbols.

    The Trembling of the Veil William Butler Yeats
  • Then it came out and flooded his drawings and his canvasses with a glory unseen before in art.

    Turner William Cosmo Monkhouse
  • We stand before the greatest marbles and canvasses, and we seem to have truth within our grasp and nature almost subjugated.

    Search-Light Letters Robert Grant
  • This portrait is one of 54 canvasses the artist presented to Yale University in return for an annuity of $1,000.

British Dictionary definitions for canvasses


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 canvasses



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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