canary in a coal mine

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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.

Etymology:

  • An allusion to caged canaries that miners would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide collected in the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.
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Submitted on July 07, 2010

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Nearby phrases

Some more phrases from our dictionary similar to canary in a coal mine

How to pronounce this phrase?

  1. Alex
    Alex
    US English
    Daniel
    Daniel
    British
    Karen
    Karen
    Australian
    Veena
    Veena
    Indian

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"canary in a coal mine." Phrases.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 1 Jun 2020. <https://www.phrases.com/phrase/canary-in-a-coal-mine_11524>.

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