Canary-in-a-coal-mine definition

(idiomatic) Something whose sensitivity to adverse conditions makes it a useful early indicator of such conditions; something which warns of the coming of greater danger or trouble by a deterioration in its health or welfare.
noun
5
1
Advertisement

Alternative Forms

Alternative Form of canary-in-a-coal-mine - canary-in-the-coal-mine

Other Word Forms

Noun

Singular:
canary-in-a-coal-mine
Plural:
canaries-in-a-coal-mine, canaries in coal mines

Origin of canary-in-a-coal-mine

  • An allusion to caged canaries (birds) that mining workers would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.

    From Wiktionary