ca·​nary | \ kə-ˈner-ē \
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

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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

There are several canaries in the coal mine — take the case of famous actress Fan Bingbing, for instance. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "2018 was the year Chinese internet users evaded censorship — briefly," 20 Dec. 2018 Although in recent years, not even Versace could ignore the temptation to play with an abbreviated new length and canary tipped ends, as seen at one recent Costume Institute Gala. Mackenzie Wagoner, Vogue, "The Evolution of Donatella Versace’s Va-Va-Voom Beauty Look—From Blonde to Blonder," 2 Dec. 2018 This is the eternal test of mankind, and Jews are once more canaries in the coal mine. Dani Dayan, WSJ, "Israel’s Heart Goes Out to Squirrel Hill," 28 Oct. 2018 One of her children chose the canary in the Victorian birdcage. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Supermodel Maggie Rizer Adds Store Owner to Her Fashion Résumé," 14 Nov. 2018 While the cancellation of the FYF Fest may have served as a canary in a coal mine moment for the concert industry, festivals with a niche may prove to be the way forward. Chris Barton,, "Looking beyond the headliners at Arroyo Seco Weekend," 20 June 2018 And many companies continue to focus only on recruitment instead of retention, which Blanche likened to seeing that the canary in the coal mine is having problems and throwing in 50 more canaries as a solution. Tracey Lien,, "As diversity progress in Silicon Valley stalls, advocates call for a new approach," 4 June 2018 Wright's book is particularly timely given Texas' status as the canary in the coal mine for what America would look like with divisive, retrograde politicians at the helm. Cecile Richards,, "A turning point for Texas' deep-red politics?," 23 Apr. 2018 Ukraine, after all, has become a frequent canary in the coalmine for global cyberattacks, particularly the ongoing cyberwar carried out by its brazen and aggressive Russian neighbors. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, "Stealthy, Destructive Malware Infects Half a Million Routers," 23 May 2018

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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Statistics for canary

Last Updated

7 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for canary

The first known use of canary was in 1592

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More Definitions for canary



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 \
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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with canary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for canary

Spanish Central: Translation of canary

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

Comments on canary

What made you want to look up canary? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to gather or build up little by little

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