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

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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

After the canaries were rescued, an unidentified man showed up at the wildlife center offering to bribe a security guard a few hundred dollars to have the birds returned. Washington Post, "Songbirds silenced as Colombia fights wildlife trafficking," 14 Aug. 2019 Alaska is one of the canaries in the mine and things are definitely headed warmer. Jeff Lowenfels, Anchorage Daily News, "Blackberries, shade gardening, snakes? Imagining a warmer climate for Alaska gardens," 17 July 2019 The turtles themselves act as canaries in coal minds, giving vital information about local environmental health. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "Confronting Bias In A.I.: raceAhead," 16 July 2019 Select from one of 200 rooms and 40 suites, all centered around a tropical courtyard where fruit trees attract chirping canaries. Michaela Trimble, Vogue, "An Insider’s Guide to Colonia Juárez, Mexico City’s Hottest Neighborhood," 3 July 2019 This new crop of IPOs in 2019 will be canaries in the coal mine for the economic prospects of other technology companies, as well as the economy at large — which is increasingly dominated by tech. Rani Molla, Vox, "How the tech unicorns of 2019 are doing on the stock market," 20 June 2019 Although this process has been well studied in mice, rats and canaries among other animals, only a handful of studies have sought to discover if neurogenesis also occurs in people after childhood. Deborah Netburn,, "Brain tissue samples from people of all ages suggest we stop growing new neurons in our early teens," 7 Mar. 2018 Other commodity prices that are often inflation canaries, such as oil and farm products, are also down. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Time for a Fed Pause," 17 Dec. 2018 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

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 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

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 wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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