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[buht-n-hohl] /ˈbʌt nˌhoʊl/
the hole, slit, or loop through which a button is passed and by which it is secured.
Chiefly British. a boutonniere.
Surgery. a short, straight incision through the wall of a cavity or a canal.
verb (used with object), buttonholed, buttonholing.
to sew with a buttonhole stitch.
to make buttonholes in.
to hold by the buttonhole or otherwise abruptly detain (someone) in conversation:
The reporter tried to buttonhole the mayor for a statement on the bus strike.
Origin of buttonhole
First recorded in 1555-65; button + hole
Related forms
buttonholer, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for button-hole
Historical Examples
  • The twentieth brought a button-hole, and over this the inquest was held.

  • Not an organ in its right place, and a camelia in his button-hole!

    The Stark Munro Letters J. Stark Munro
  • The Baron plucked one of them, and wore it in his button-hole on the return journey.

    The Eternal City Hall Caine
  • If you should work it perfectly horizontal, it is the same as button-hole stitch.

  • One evening he appeared with a red flower in his button-hole.

    Within the Tides Joseph Conrad
  • "Neither will I, then," cried he, tearing it out of his button-hole and throwing it away.

    Tony Butler Charles James Lever
  • He wore in the button-hole of his blue coat the ribbon of St. Louis.

    Jack Hinton Charles James Lever
  • Presently there would be a flower in his button-hole and everything that went with the flower.

    The Paliser case Edgar Saltus
  • Willie generally cuts me off with a sprig for my button-hole.

  • Medland recognised it as like the bud Dick Derosne had worn in his button-hole.

    Half a Hero Anthony Hope
British Dictionary definitions for button-hole


a slit in a garment, etc, through which a button is passed to fasten two surfaces together
a flower or small bunch of flowers worn pinned to the lapel or in the buttonhole, esp at weddings, formal dances, etc US name boutonniere
verb (transitive)
to detain (a person) in conversation
to make buttonholes in
to sew with buttonhole stitch
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for button-hole

1560s, from button (n.) + hole (n.). The verb, also buttonhole, meaning "to detain (someone) in conversation against his will" (1862) was earlier button-hold (1834), from button-holder (1806, in this sense). The image is of holding someone by the coat-button so as to detain him.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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button-hole in Medicine

buttonhole but·ton·hole (bŭt'n-hōl')

  1. A short straight surgical cut made through the wall of a cavity or canal.

  2. The contraction of an orifice down to a narrow slit, as in mitral stenosis.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for button-hole



To get someone's attention as if by taking hold by a buttonhole: listening to and buttonholing other researchers

[1880+; Button in the same sense is attested from the early 1860s]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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