ca·​nary | \ kə-ˈner-ē How to pronounce canary (audio) \
plural canaries

Definition of canary

1 : a Canary Islands usually sweet wine similar to Madeira
2 : a lively 16th century court dance
3 : 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

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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 To track every species would be impossible, so ecologists commonly focus on those that, like canaries in coal mines, are thought to indicate when the system as a whole is beginning to suffer. The Economist, "Scientific methods Dung beetles prefer human faeces to those of wild animals," 11 Jan. 2020 The children being hospitalized now are in a sense the country's canaries, the earliest victims of a danger to which the state can offer little response. Caitlin Hu, CNN, "Millions in Haiti face hunger in 2020," 30 Dec. 2019 Indicator 5: Choose Your Favorite The indicators above have historically been among the most reliable canaries in the economic coal mine. Ben Casselman, New York Times, "A Recession Hasn’t Arrived (Yet). Here’s Where You’ll See It First.," 12 Dec. 2019 Metaphorically, the animals are canaries in the climate-change coal mine. Steve Johnson,, "The world’s coral reefs are dying. Shedd scientists in the Bahamas are searching for a chance for their survival.," 11 Dec. 2019 Dallas, Denver and Houston are the canaries in the coal mine. Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post, "Renting remains a cheaper option than buying along Colorado’s Front Range, study finds," 6 Dec. 2019 The ornaments are 84 birds, including cardinals, chickadees, canaries, blue birds, woodpeckers, blue jays and gold finches. cleveland, "Olmsted Falls Garden Club is busy year round: Olmsted Dates and Data," 6 Dec. 2019 The symphony of bubbling fish tanks, trilling canaries and classical music at Sonnen’s Pet Shop has flourished for eight decades in downtown St. Paul under the steady direction of the Sonnen family. Deanna Weniger, Twin Cities, "Sonnen’s Pet Shop, virtually unchanged for over a century, won’t stay in the family after owner retires," 2 Dec. 2019 Forty years later, another plastic canary has come home to roost. Anchorage Daily News, "Plastic discs released in the ’70s by a scientist off Alaska’s northern coast keep returning home," 30 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'canary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of canary

1592, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for canary

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

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Time Traveler for canary

Time Traveler

The first known use of canary was in 1592

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Statistics for canary

Last Updated

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Canary.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 January 2020.

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More Definitions for canary


How to pronounce canary (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of canary

: a small usually yellow or green tropical bird that is often kept in a cage


ca·​nary | \ kə-ˈner-ē How to pronounce canary (audio) \
plural canaries

Kids Definition of canary

: a small usually yellow songbird often kept in a cage

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More from Merriam-Webster on canary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for canary

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with canary

Spanish Central: Translation of canary

Nglish: Translation of canary for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about canary

Comments on canary

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good-natured easy friendliness

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