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

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

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 Most famously, miners carried canaries into coal mines with them to detect toxic gases, including carbon monoxide, before the development of modern safety equipment. Theresa Laverty, Smithsonian, "Where Clean Drinking Water Is Hard To Find, Bats Could Lead the Way," 2 May 2018 Measuring pollution with canaries, moss and fish People have used plants and animals as environmental indicators for many years. Theresa Laverty, Smithsonian, "Where Clean Drinking Water Is Hard To Find, Bats Could Lead the Way," 2 May 2018 Polar regions are thawing, oceans are rising, Louisiana’s delta is vanishing while Florida waits to follow suit, and the bees, our coal mine canaries, show signs of distress. Fred Niedner,, "Column: Which leaders will future voters look to?," 13 Apr. 2018 The birds that visitors witness being banded might one day prove to be the canaries in the coal mine. Maria Finn, San Francisco Chronicle, "Don’t miss these great places to see California wildlife, from insects to whales," 28 Mar. 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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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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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 reject or criticize sharply

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