canary (n.)

type of small songbird, 1650s (short for Canary-bird, 1570s), from French canarie, from Spanish canario "canary bird," literally "of the Canary Islands" (where it is indigenous), from Latin Insula Canaria "Canary Island," largest of the Fortunate Isles, literally "island of dogs" (canis, derived adjective canarius, from PIE root *kwon- "dog").

Supposedly so called "from its multitude of dogs of a huge size" (Pliny), but perhaps this is folk-etymology, and the name might instead be that of the Canarii, a Berber people who lived near the coast of Morocco opposite the island and might have settled on it. The name was extended to the whole island group (Canariæ Insulæ) by the time of Arnobius (c. 300). As a type of wine (from the Canary Islands) from 1580s.

[Recent DNA analysis (2019) of ancient remains on the island suggest the indigenous people were of typical North African lineages as well as Mediterranean and sub-Saharan African groups and may have arrived by c. 100 C.E.]

updated on March 21, 2019

Definitions of canary from WordNet
canary (n.)
someone acting as an informer or decoy for the police;
Synonyms: fink / snitch / snitcher / stoolpigeon / stool pigeon / stoolie / sneak / sneaker
canary (n.)
a female singer;
canary (n.)
a moderate yellow with a greenish tinge;
Synonyms: canary yellow
canary (n.)
any of several small Old World finches;
Synonyms: canary bird
canary (adj.)
having the color of a canary; of a light to moderate yellow;
Synonyms: canary-yellow
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