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 formscan·vass·er, nounpre·can·vass, verb (used with object), nounun·can·vassed, adjectiveun·der·can·vass, verbwell-can·vassed, adjective
Can be confusedcanvas canvass

Synonyms for canvass Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for canvasses

Contemporary Examples of canvasses

  • Garance Franke-Ruta canvasses CPAC delegates as to why Romney lost.

    The Daily Beast logo
    We Learn Nothing

    David Frum

    March 16, 2013

Historical Examples of canvasses

  • 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

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 Formscanvasser, nouncanvassing, noun

Word Origin for canvass

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

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