A tarpaulin (or tarp in American English[1]) is a large sheet of strong, flexible, water-resistant or waterproof material, often cloth such as canvas or polyester coated with urethane, or made of plastics such as polyethylene. In some places such as Australia, and in military slang, a tarp may be known as a hootchie. Tarpaulins often have reinforced grommets at the corners and along the sides to form attachment points for rope, allowing them to be tied down or suspended.

Inexpensive modern tarpaulins are made from woven polypropylene; this material is so associated with tarpaulins that it has become colloquially known in some quarters as polytarp.


Tarpaulin fly tent

An improvised tent using polytarp as a fly

The word tarpaulin originated as a compound of the words tar and palling, referring to a tarred canvas pall used to cover objects on ships. By association, according to one theory, sailors became known as tarpaulins and eventually tars.[2]

When used for a tarpaulin, the word hoochie (also hootchie, hootch, or hooch) comes from the Japanese uchi (家, "house"). Huts in various parts of rural Asia are known by this or similar names, and during the Korean and Vietnam Wars English-speaking soldiers came to use the word to refer to their own makeshift shelters, which often consisted of little more than a tarpaulin.

In British English, the word is normally pronounced "TAR-paul-in". An American pronunciation would be "TAR-pole-in". A colloquial variation adds a vowel sound, resulting in the pronunciation, "tar-POLE-ee-in".[citation needed]

In the mid-19th century, "paulin" was used for such a cloth; here General Rosecrans tells a subordinate how to improvise a boat:

"A boat has been ordered up, but to make sure a large paulin will be sent down to you, with which, spread under a lot of wagon-beds, you will be able to make a large scow." (War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, series 1, volume 5, page 260, November 1861)

"Two wagon beds ... were placed upon frames ... Thus constructed, they were placed upon a duck paulin, which was drawn up tightly around the beds and secured." (same, page 275)



A tarpaulin is used at WrestleMania XXIV to prevent rain from falling on the performers and stage equipment.

Tarpaulins have multiple uses, including as shelter from the elements, i.e., wind, rain, or sunlight, a ground sheet or a fly in camping, a drop sheet for painting, for protecting the infield of a baseball field, and for protecting objects, such as unenclosed road or rail goods carrying vehicles or wood piles. Such was the demand for tarpaulins by the New South Wales Government Railways, up until 1990, they operated their own tarpaulin factory.[3] It is also used on outdoor market stalls to provide some protection from the elements of nature. Tarpaulins are also used for advertisement printing, most especially for billboards.

Different kinds of tarpaulinEdit

Polypropylene Edit


A polypropylene tarp ("polytarp") is not a traditional fabric, but rather, a laminate of woven and sheet material. The center is loosely woven from strips of polypropylene plastic, with sheets of the same material bonded to the surface. This creates a fabric-like material that resists stretching well in all directions and is waterproof. When treated against ultraviolet light, these tarpaulins can last for years exposed to the elements, but non-UV treated material will quickly become brittle and lose strength and water resistance if exposed to sunlight.

Polypropylene tarpaulins have also proven to be a popular source when an inexpensive, water resistant fabric is needed. Many amateur builders of plywood sailboats turn to polypropylene tarpaulins for making their sails, as it is inexpensive and easily worked. With the proper type of adhesive tape, it is possible to make a serviceable sail for a small boat with no sewing.

Perforated tarpaulin Edit

Typically used for large medium advertising, or for protection on scaffoldings, the aim of the perforations (from 20% to 70%) is to reduce wind vulnerability.

File:Perforated pvc tarp.jpg

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary
  2. [1]
  3. A short History of the Tarpaulin Factory at Enfield Johnson, Frank Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, September, 1999 pp343-347

da:Presenning de:Persenning eo:Baŝo fr:Tarp ja:タープ pl:Brezent pt:Lona alcatroada ru:Брезент sv:Presenning tr:Tente uk:Брезент

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