Canvas or Canvass?

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Canvas or Canvass?

What is the difference between "canvas" and "canvass"?
  • "Canvas" is heavy cloth. For example:
    • The sails are made of canvas.
  • "To canvass" means "to survey opinion" or "to solicit votes." For example:
    • I will canvass all the members of my club.
    • (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.

Canvas

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).

Canvass

The verb "to canvass" has several closely related meanings. It can mean:
To collect opinions.
  • Can you canvass the local area to determine the support for the bypass?
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.
To examine closely.
  • Sarah canvassed every shop in Hull before she found the right shoes.
To ask around.
  • The investigation team will canvass the area to see whether there were any witnesses to the crash.

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?
  • I heard Joan's canvass was postponed due to the storm.
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.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? cannot or can not? who's or whose? What are nouns? What are verbs? List of easily confused words