Canvas or Canvass?

What Is the Difference between "Canvas" and "Canvass"?

"Canvas" and "canvass" are easy to confuse because they sound identical. However, their meanings are very different.
  • "Canvas" is heavy cloth. For example:
    • The sails are made of canvas. correct tick
  • "Canvass" means "to survey opinion" or "to solicit votes." For example:
    • I will canvass all the members of my club. correct tick
    • (This could mean "I will survey them to learn their views" or "I will encourage them to vote a certain way.")
canvas or canvass?

More about "Canvas" and "Canvass"

The words "canvas" and "canvass" are homonyms. More specifically, they are a type of homonym called a homophone (i.e., they sound identical). Nevertheless, their meanings are very different.


The noun "canvas" (with one "s" at the end) refers to a heavy woven cloth of hemp, flax, or cotton. It is typically used for sails, tents, and paintings. The word "canvas" is also used figuratively for the floor of a boxing or wrestling ring (i.e., they are often not made of canvas).


The verb "to canvass" has four closely related meanings. It can mean:

(1) To collect opinions

  • Can you canvass the local area to determine the support for the bypass? correct tick

(2) To electioneer (i.e., to collect votes through persuasion of voters in a political campaign)

  • Mr. Millar will arrange for Joan's team to canvass High Street and Bond Street on Saturday. We need as much support from the west side of town as possible. correct tick

(3) To examine closely

  • Sarah canvassed every shop in Hull before she found the right shoes. correct tick

(4) To ask around

  • The investigation team will canvass the area to see whether there were any witnesses to the crash. correct tick

Canvass Used as a Noun

Nowadays, "canvass" is used as a noun to denote the processes above. For example:
  • Did your canvass of the local area succeed in determining the support for the bypass? correct tick
  • I heard Joan's canvass was postponed due to the storm. correct tick
Note: The noun "canvassing" is more common than "canvass." It can be substituted into both examples above.

Top Tip

Canvass means solicit support.

Use the last two letters of "canvass" to bring "solicit support" to mind.
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.