Definition of canary in English:


Line breaks: can¦ary
Pronunciation: /kəˈnɛːri

noun (plural canaries)

  • 1A mainly African finch with a melodious song, typically having yellowish-green plumage. One kind is popular as a cage bird and has been bred in a variety of colours, especially bright yellow.
    • Genus Serinus, family Fringillidae: several species, especially the island canary (S. canaria), which is native to the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira, and from which the domestic canary was developed
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    • Janet has been keeping exotic birds including cockatiels, finches and canaries for 12 years.
    • Finches, canaries and budgerigars do not need as much attention from their people and so may be an option for those with busy life-styles.
    • Budgies, finches, sparrows and canaries are only a few of the more than one hundred kinds of birds people keep in their apartments.
  • 2 (also canary yellow) [mass noun] A bright yellow colour resembling the plumage of a canary: [as modifier]: villas painted in canary yellow a canary waistcoat
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    • African marigold comes in yellow and orange colours in various hues such as light yellow, canary yellow, golden yellow, bright yellow, cadmium, orange, golden orange, deep orange, bright orange.
    • A strong ethnic collection, it uses vivid colours which range form burgundy and strong fuchsia to canary yellow and electric blue.
    • The landscaping was so much better than anything around it, and despite the ugly color contrast of bright canary yellow and brown it was in very nice shape.
  • 3 (also canary wine) [mass noun] historical A sweet wine from the Canary Islands, similar to Madeira.
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    • His drinks cellar would have been stocked with vast quantities of strong beer and small beer (a weaker brew), as well as a range of wines such as claret and canary.
    • This was considered as a trial of victory among these ‘canary birds,’ or bibbers of canary wine.
    • Shakespeare refers to canary wine in Twelfth Night and The Merry Wives of Windsor.


late 16th century: from French canari, from Spanish canario 'canary' or 'person from the Canary Islands' (see Canary Islands).

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