[tahr-paw-lin, tahr-puh-lin]


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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tarpaulin

Contemporary Examples of tarpaulin

Historical Examples of tarpaulin

  • At the road he left me; up on the hill his dog guarded the tarpaulin and waited for his return.

  • We fastened a tarpaulin across the top of the well and made it our mess.

    Pushed and the Return Push

    George Herbert Fosdike Nichols, (AKA Quex)

  • He had pulled his tarpaulin closer to the trail, and his motive was as an open page to the keen Mormon.

  • Then throwing a tarpaulin coat over us, he left us to ourselves, while he mounted his watch in the bows and kept a look-out ahead.

    Parkhurst Boys

    Talbot Baines Reed

  • Why, he had been asleep under a tarpaulin all the way from Cuddy Cove!

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 for tarpaulin

C17: probably from tar 1 + pall 1 + -ing 1
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 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