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From canvas, originally meaning "to toss in a canvas sheet". First attested 1508



canvass (countable and uncountable, plural canvasses)

  1. A solicitation of voters or public opinion.
  2. A tally, audit and certification of votes.[1]
  3. Archaic form of canvas.
    • 1838, Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks (editor), The works of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 6,
      The double desire of being able to overtake a weaker flying enemy, or to escape when pursued by a stronger, has induced the owners to overmast their cruisers, and to spread too much canvass; []



canvass (third-person singular simple present canvasses, present participle canvassing, simple past and past participle canvassed)

  1. To solicit voters, opinions, etc. from; to go through, with personal solicitation or public addresses.
    to canvass a district for votes; to canvass a city for subscriptions
  2. To conduct a survey.
  3. To campaign.
  4. To sift; to strain; to examine thoroughly; to scrutinize.
    to canvass the votes cast at an election; to canvass a district with reference to its probable vote
    • Woodward
      I have made careful search on all hands, and canvassed the matter with all possible diligence.
  5. To examine by discussion; to debate.
    • Sir W. Hamilton
      an opinion that we are likely soon to canvass


  • 1920, in the Classical Journal, volume 15, page 242:
    Some hunt "ponies" unrelentingly, others protest at intervals, most, perhaps, ignore the matter unless it is insolently forced upon their attention. How old this question was and how thoughtfully it had been canvassed we were not aware []
  • 2001, Joyce Carol Oates, Middle Age: A Romance, page 5
    Adam Berendt, who canvassed through Rockland County on behalf of education, environmental, and gun control bond issues.


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