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
4 slang : informer sense 2

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 That’s why New York’s war on energy should be a canary in the coal mine—a warning to every American who yearns for prosperity, security and lower energy prices. Claudia Tenney, WSJ, 11 May 2022 The border region has long been a canary in the reproductive rights coal mine. Fidel Martinez, Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2022 In the world of oceans, Hammerschlag says sharks are the canary in the coal mine. Louise Schiavone, Forbes, 22 Apr. 2022 Black folks have always been the canary in the coal mine in this nation. Peniel E. Joseph, CNN, 21 Apr. 2022 Instead of the canary in the coal mine warning of danger, environmentalists say, the manatees are more like the miners. Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 Feb. 2022 Each painting was offset by a mouse, a rabbit and a canary to symbolize her own vulnerability. Sam Whiting, San Francisco Chronicle, 31 Mar. 2022 Some in Syria say their country was the canary in the coalmine that the world chose to ignore. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, 18 Mar. 2022 The canary in the coal mine right now is the mail ballot voters. ABC News, 23 Jan. 2022 See More

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.

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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Canary banana

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Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Canary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for canary


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

More from Merriam-Webster on canary

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


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