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[tahr-paw-lin, tahr-puh-lin] /tɑrˈpɔ lɪn, ˈtɑr pə lɪn/
a protective covering of canvas or other material waterproofed with tar, paint, or wax.
a hat, especially a sailor's, made of or covered with such material.
Rare. a sailor.
Origin of tarpaulin
1595-1605; earlier tarpauling. See tar1, pall1, -ing1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tarpaulin
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The loads, covered by the tarpaulin, had been arranged in the centre of the circle.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • At camp Kingozi ordered them to place the loads in place beneath the tarpaulin.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • I crawl in between the chairs and the wall and get under that piece of tarpaulin.

  • I could not control my anxiety as the steward got nearer and nearer the tarpaulin.

  • Is he a tarpaulin theologian—a divine among the tarry-breeks?'

    Micah Clarke Arthur Conan Doyle
  • On this he spread a tarpaulin, and then heaped it with blankets.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • Hephzy hastily removed her hat and thrust it beneath the tarpaulin.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug Joseph C. Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for tarpaulin


a heavy hard-wearing waterproof fabric made of canvas or similar material coated with tar, wax, or paint, for outdoor use as a protective covering against moisture
a sheet of this fabric
a hat of or covered with this fabric, esp a sailor's hat
a rare word for seaman
Word Origin
C17: probably from tar1 + pall1 + -ing1
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 tarpaulin

c.1600, from tar (n.1) + palling, from pall "heavy cloth covering" (see pall (n.)); probably so called because the canvas is sometimes coated in tar to make it waterproof.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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