Difference between canvas or canvass

In the exploration of language, particularly English, the distinction between canvas and canvass showcases the richness and complexity that homophones bring to the language. These terms, while sounding identical, carry entirely different meanings and uses. Canvas refers to a sturdy, durable fabric made from hemp, flax, or cotton, commonly used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and as a surface for oil painting. On the other hand, canvass is a verb that means to solicit votes from electors, to conduct a survey, or to thoroughly discuss or examine an issue. The differentiation between these terms not only highlights their unique definitions but also their distinct grammatical roles: canvas being a noun and canvass a verb.

Quick Facts Table

Part of SpeechNounVerb
MeaningA durable fabric used for various applications, including art and shelter.To solicit opinions, votes, or conduct a survey.
OriginMiddle English, from Old French canevas.Middle English, possibly from Old French canabasser, meaning to examine thoroughly.
UsageUsed to refer to material for painting, sails, tents, etc.Used to describe the action of soliciting or surveying.

Difference Between Canvas or Canvass

Definition of Canvas

Canvas is a noun that refers to a heavy, coarse fabric made of hemp, flax, or cotton. This material is used for making sails, tents, paintings, and other items requiring sturdy fabric.

Definition of Canvass

Canvass, as a verb, involves the action of soliciting people's opinions, votes, or conducting a survey. It also refers to the thorough discussion or examination of a subject.

Origin of Canvas

The word canvas has its roots in the 13th century, derived from the Anglo-French word canevas, which in turn comes from the Latin cannapaceus (made of hemp).

Origin of Canvass

Canvass originated in the late 16th century, evolving from the word canvas, which was used in the sense of tossing in a canvas sheet as a form of punishment or scrutiny, leading to its current meaning of soliciting or examining.


  • Canvas: /ˈkænvəs/
  • Canvass: /ˈkænvəs/

Comparing Canvas and Canvass

Usage ContextArt, outdoor gear, and construction.Politics, surveys, and discussions.
DerivationFrom material properties (durability, texture).From actions (to seek, to explore).

Usage in Sentences with Explanations

Use of Canvas in Sentences

  1. The artist stretched a new canvas on the frame before starting her painting.
  2. We pitched a canvas tent by the lakeside for our camping trip.
  3. The canvas bag proved to be very durable during our travels.
  4. He preferred canvas sneakers for their comfort and breathability.
  5. The exhibition displayed a remarkable canvas depicting a historical battle.

Use of Canvass in Sentences

  1. The political candidate decided to canvass the neighborhood to gain support.
  2. Volunteers helped to canvass opinions on the new park proposal.
  3. The team set out to canvass for the charity event next month.
  4. It’s important to canvass various sources before writing a research paper.
  5. The marketing department decided to canvass customer satisfaction through surveys.


The distinction between canvas and canvass is a prime example of the nuances in the English language. Understanding these differences enhances our comprehension and enables more precise communication. While canvas brings to mind the physicality of durable fabric, canvass evokes the action of seeking out opinions or conducting examinations. Recognizing the distinction between these terms not only enriches one’s vocabulary but also sharpens linguistic precision.

Commonly Asked Questions

  • What are the primary uses of a canvas?
    • As a surface for painting, material for tents and sails, and fabric for durable items like bags.
  • How is canvassing related to elections?
    • It involves soliciting votes, opinions, or support from the electorate.
  • Can the term canvas be used as a verb?
    • Yes, but it’s rare and typically relates to creating art on canvas.
  • Is there a connection between canvas and canvass in terms of origin?
    • Yes, both have roots in the concept of covering or enveloping, though their meanings have diverged significantly.
  • How can one remember the difference between canvas and canvass?
    • Canvas refers to a material (think of the “s” in material as singular like in canvas), while canvass involves seeking or soliciting, suggesting action or verb (the double “s” can imply the action of searching).

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