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A canary bird (1)


From French canarie, from Spanish canario, from the Latin Canariae insulae ‎(Canary Islands) (Spanish Islas Canarias); from the largest island Insula Canaria ‎(Dog Island" or "Canine Island), named for its dogs, from canārius ‎(canine), from canis ‎(dog).



canary ‎(plural canaries)

  1. A small, usually yellow, finch (genus Serinus), a songbird native to the Canary Islands.
  2. Any of various small birds of different countries, most of which are largely yellow in colour.
  3. A light, slightly greenish, yellow colour.
    canary colour:    
  4. A light, sweet, white wine from the Canary Islands.
  5. A lively dance, possibly of Spanish origin (also called canaries).
  6. Any test subject, especially an inadvertent or unwilling one. (From the mining practice of using canaries to detect dangerous gases.)
  7. (informal) A female singer, soprano, a coloratura singer.
  8. (slang) An informer or snitch; a squealer.
  9. (slang) A (usually yellow) capsule of the short-acting barbiturate pentobarbital/pentobarbitone (Nembutal).
  10. (Australia, informal) A yellow sticker of unroadworthiness.
    • 1993 September 12, Jacco Zwetsloot, “Warning About Speed Traps”, alt.folklore.urban, Usenet:
      The tendency in these types of situations (as far as I can see) is that because I don't think the act itself is illegal, the police will go through your vehicle systematically loking for anything wrong with it, to slap a canary on it (that's slang for an unroadworthy sticker) or present you with some other fine.
    • 1999 January 16, Garry Lawson, “Noisy Bikes (Update)”,, Usenet:
      Yes, if the exhaust is to noisey[sic] they can slap a yellow canary on it, but the[n] who cares you got rid of it.
    • 2003 February 14, Noddy, “Spare tyres”,, Usenet:
      You don't have to carry a spare wheel for a car to be roadworthy, and if you *do* carry one, it doesn't have to be in a roadworthy condition *unless* you fit it [to] the car and drive on it.
      If it's not and you get pinched, expect a canary...


Derived terms[edit]



canary ‎(comparative more canary, superlative most canary)

  1. Of a light yellow colour.



canary ‎(third-person singular simple present canaries, present participle canarying, simple past and past participle canaried)

  1. (intransitive) to dance nimbly (as in the canary dance)
  2. (slang) to inform or snitch, to betray secrets, especially about illegal activities.


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