ca·​nary kə-ˈner-ē How to pronounce canary (audio)
plural canaries
: a Canary Islands usually sweet wine similar to Madeira
: a lively 16th century court dance
: a small finch (Serinus canarius synonym S. canaria) of the Canary Islands that is usually greenish to yellow and is kept as a cage bird and singer

Examples of canary in a Sentence

a canary who was singing and giving up the names of some of the city's most notorious drug lords
Recent Examples on the Web The insurance industry offers valuable pricing signals in those areas – like a canary in a coal mine, says Mr. Gordon. Ali Martin, The Christian Science Monitor, 31 Aug. 2023 As a child he was fascinated with animals and kept a colony of mice, a turtle and a canary, much to his parents’ discomfort. Daniel E. Slotnik, New York Times, 8 May 2023 Hellbenders are an indicator species, and act as a kind of canary in the coal mine when the waters become too polluted. Karl Schneider, The Indianapolis Star, 17 Aug. 2023 The music industry has been the canary in the coal mine for many technologies, including piracy, and has been among the first in the entertainment field to have to grapple with generative AI that mimics specific artists’ styles and voices. Todd Spangler, Variety, 16 Aug. 2023 Predators there had served as canaries in the coal mine, the researchers say, and after leaving a fossil record, inostrancevia died out, too. Matt Hrodey, Discover Magazine, 24 May 2023 In America, school boards have become something of a canary in the coal mine of democracy. Courtney E. Martin, The Christian Science Monitor, 6 June 2023 This extra time not only silenced the canary, so to speak, but also let Cred executives take more of their customers’ money, all while allegedly working on a new business that would do nothing to reimburse their customers’ massive losses. Jessica Klein, Fortune, 6 July 2023 Tiffany has become the canary in the coal mine for those who falsely believe that vaccines are killing and injuring people in droves. Brandy Zadrozny, NBC News, 10 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'canary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French canarie, from Old Spanish canario, from Islas Canarias Canary Islands

First Known Use

1592, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of canary was in 1592

Dictionary Entries Near canary

Cite this Entry

“Canary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


ca·​nary kə-ˈne(ə)r-ē How to pronounce canary (audio)
plural canaries
: a small usually yellow or greenish finch native to the Canary Islands that is often kept in a cage

More from Merriam-Webster on canary

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