[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.

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

Related Words for tarpaulin

coat, canvas, cover, sailcloth, oilcloth

Examples from the Web for tarpaulin

Contemporary Examples of tarpaulin

Historical Examples of tarpaulin

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

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