• synonyms


[tahr-paw-lin, tahr-puh-lin]
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  1. a protective covering of canvas or other material waterproofed with tar, paint, or wax.
  2. a hat, especially a sailor's, made of or covered with such material.
  3. Rare. a sailor.
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Origin of tarpaulin

1595–1605; earlier tarpauling. See tar1, pall1, -ing1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for tarpaulin


  1. 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
  2. a sheet of this fabric
  3. a hat of or covered with this fabric, esp a sailor's hat
  4. a rare word for seaman
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Word Origin

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper