Definition of canary bird in US English:

canary bird


  • 1An Old World finch native to the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira, widely popular as a cage and aviary bird for its melodious song, Serinus canaria (family Fringillidae).

  • 2Slang (originally cant). A prisoner; (also) †a habitual offender, a criminal, a rogue (obsolete). Compare "canary", "jail-bird". Now rare.

  • 3Specifically Australian slang. A transported convict; = "canary". Now historical.

  • 4The canary creeper, Tropaeolum peregrinum. Usually more fully as "canary bird flower", "canary bird plant", "canary bird vine".


Mid 16th century; earliest use found in William Turner (d. 1568), naturalist and religious controversialist. From the name of the Canary Islands + bird.


canary bird

/kəˈnɛːri bəːd/