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canary (kuh-NAR-ee) noun

1. A small finch (Serinus canaria) native to the Canary Islands that is greenish to yellow and has long been bred as a cage bird.

2. A woman singer. An informer; a stool pigeon.

3. A sweet white wine from the Canary Islands, similar to Madeira.

4. A lively 16th-century court dance.

5. A light to moderate or vivid yellow color.

[French canari, from Spanish canario, of the Canary Islands, from (Islas) Canarias, Canary (Islands), from Late Latin Canariae (Insulae), (islands) of dogs, from Latin canarius, pertaining to dogs, canine, from canis, dog.]

"Other Hollywood illuminati have denounced Mr. Kazan for his supposed treachery; a newspaper columnist describes him as `the most famous canary of the Cold War'." Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Waterfront All Over Again, The Wall Street Journal, Mar 19, 1999.

This week's theme: animal words that are used figuratively.


In the midst of great joy, do not promise anyone anything. In the midst of great anger, do not answer anyone's letter. -Chinese proverb

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