1. A heavy, coarse, closely woven fabric of cotton, hemp, or flax, traditionally used for tents and sails.
a. A piece of such fabric on which a painting, especially an oil painting, is executed.
b. A painting executed on such fabric.
3. A fabric of coarse open weave, used as a foundation for needlework.
4. The background against which events unfold, as in a historical narrative: a grim portrait of despair against the bright canvas of the postwar economy.
5. Nautical A sail or set of sails.
a. A tent or group of tents.
b. A circus tent.
7. Sports The floor of a ring in which boxing or wrestling takes place.
1. Nautical With sails spread.
2. In a tent or tents.
[Middle English canevas, from Old French and from Medieval Latin canavāsium, both ultimately from Latin cannabis, hemp; see CANNABIS.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.