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Alternative spelling of canvas.

Canvas evolved in meaning from “toss in a canvas sheet” as in Old French canabasser (to examine carefully), literally “to sift through canvas”, as a form of light punishment, and public ridicule (subject person to rigorous evaluation by the crowd), then “to shake out, scrutinize and reject invalid votes”, then finally “solicit votes” or “test support before an election” to identify voting intentions.[1][2]


  • Homophone: canvas
  • (file)


canvass (countable and uncountable, plural canvasses)

  1. A solicitation of voters or public opinion.
  2. A tally, audit and certification of votes.[3]
  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; []



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

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To toss in a canvas sheet; to thrash, beat. [first use 1508]
    • c. 1591, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 1, Act I, Scene 3,[1]
      Thou that givest whores indulgences to sin:
      I’ll canvass thee in thy broad cardinal’s hat,
      If thou proceed in this thy insolence.
  2. (transitive) To solicit voters, opinions, etc. from; to go through, with personal solicitation or public addresses.
    • 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.
    to canvass a district for votes; to canvass a city for subscriptions
  3. (intransitive) To conduct a survey.
  4. (intransitive) To campaign.
    • 1581, George Pettie (translator), The Civile Conversation by Stefano Guazzo (1574), Book 1,[2]
      [] those chief honours and offices which ambitious men goe all day long with great labour and are canuassing and crauing for.
  5. (transitive) 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
    • 1567, Arthur Golding (translator), The XV Bookes of P. Ouidius Naso, entytuled Metamorphosis, Book 1,[3]
      And with the aunswere here vpon eftsoones in hand they go,
      The doubtfull wordes wherof they scan and canuas to and fro.
    • 1631, William Watts (translator), Saint Augustines Confessions, London: John Partridge, Book 10, Chapter 40, pp. 709-710,[4]
      [] taking some things vpon the report of my Sences, & working out other things that were of a mixt nature, by way of Dialogue with mine owne selfe; yea and taking particular notice and tale of the Reporters themselues; & anon throughly canuassing ouer those other things layd vp in the large treasury of my memory, storing vp some of them there againe, and for my vse drawing out the rest.
    • 1695, John Woodward, An Essay toward a Natural History of the Earth and Terrestrial Bodies, London: Richard Wilkin, Part V, p. 228,[5]
      I have made careful search on all hands, and canvass’d the Matter with all possible Diligence []
  6. (transitive) To examine by discussion; to debate.
    • 1848, William Hamilton, Lectures in Metaphysics and Logic, New York: Sheldon & Co., Volume I, Lecture 11, p. 140,[6]
      This is an opinion we are, likewise, 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 []


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  • canvass at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • canvass in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911