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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).


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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.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  5. A lively dance, possibly of Spanish origin (also called canaries).
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  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 Nembutal™ barbiturate.
  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...


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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)


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