canary in a coal mine

Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!

canary in a coal mine

Something or someone who, due to sensitivity to his, her, or its surroundings, acts as an indicator and early warning of possible adverse conditions or danger. Refers to the former practice of taking caged canaries into coal mines. The birds would die if methane gas became present and thereby alert miners to the danger. Wildlife in disaster movies assumes the role of the canary in a coal mine, fleeing the scene when catastrophe is imminent. Unaware that he had been given the test drug, John was used as a canary in a coal mine to see its effects on the human mind.
See also: canary, coal, mine
References in periodicals archive ?
It's definitely a canary in a coal mine," suggests Louis Guillette, a UF zoology professor.
Ice shelves along the coast of Antarctica may play the role of the canary in a coal mine when it comes to global warming.
Their usage coined the phrase "canary in a coal mine" which now refers to an incident that serves as an early warning of a disaster.
Bloom "could be the proverbial canary in a coal mine" as commercial end-customers hit the pause button on gas investments, contends the analyst.