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[kuh-nair-ee] /kəˈnɛər i/
noun, plural canaries.
any of several Old World finches of the genus Serinus, especially S. canaria (common canary) native to the Canary Islands and often kept as a pet, in the wild being greenish with brown streaks above and yellow below and in domesticated varieties usually bright yellow or pale yellow.
Also called canary yellow. a light, clear yellow color.
Slang. informer (def 1).
Slang. a female singer, especially with a dance band.
a sweet white wine of the Canary Islands, resembling sherry.
a yellow diamond.
having the color canary.
1585-95; < Spanish (Isla) Canaria < Latin Canāria (insula) Dog (Island), equivalent to can(is) dog + -āria, feminine of -ārius -ary

Canary Islands

plural noun
a group of mountainous islands in the Atlantic Ocean, near the NW coast of Africa, comprising two provinces of Spain. 2894 sq. mi. (7495 sq. km).
Also called Canaries.
Related forms
Canarian, adjective, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for canary
  • Large, bright canary yellow blooms stand out against lush, dark green foliage on this vigorous plant.
  • The smaller birds include the yellow-fronted canary and the sparrow weaver.
  • Christine was already at the club, her bronzed arms and legs stretched out on a canary-colored deck chair by the pool.
  • And it seems the canary's song is growing ever more halting.
  • There was such a noise that the canary woke up and joined in, but his remarks were in verse.
  • The bladder, in that respect, is the canary in the abdominal coal mine.
  • Many bright feather colors, such as flamingo pink and canary yellow, are related to the foods birds eat.
  • If the canary died, they would get out of the mine because it meant methane gas was building up in the system.
  • Accounting irregularities, however modest, are often the miner's canary.
  • When it comes to global warming, the canary in the coal mine isn't a canary at all.
British Dictionary definitions for canary


noun (pl) -naries
a small finch, Serinus canaria, of the Canary Islands and Azores: a popular cagebird noted for its singing. Wild canaries are streaked yellow and brown, but most domestic breeds are pure yellow
(Austral, history) a convict
(archaic) a sweet wine from the Canary Islands similar to Madeira
Word Origin
C16: from Old Spanish canario of or from the Canary Islands

Canary Islands

plural noun
a group of mountainous islands in the Atlantic off the NW coast of Africa, forming an Autonomous Community of Spain. Pop: 1 944 700 (2003 est)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for canary

type of small songbird, 1650s (short for Canary-bird, 1570s), from French canarie, from Spanish canario "canary bird," literally "of the Canary Islands," from Latin Insula Canaria "Canary Island," largest of the Fortunate Isles, literally "island of dogs" (canis, genitive canarius; see canine (n.)), so called because large dogs lived there. The name was extended to the whole island group (Canariæ Insulæ) by the time of Arnobius (c.300). As a type of wine (from the Canary Islands) from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for canary


  1. A girl or woman; chick (1880s+)
  2. A woman singer, esp of popular music (1919+)
  3. An informer; stool pigeon •Because a canary sings (1920s+ Underworld)

: She used to canary with Stan Kenton

Related Terms

mountain canary

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with canary
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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