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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 buttonhole
Historical Examples
  • He pulled it out of his buttonhole and tossed it into the fire-place.

    The Greater Inclination Edith Wharton
  • Arthur had a fine rose in his buttonhole and looked profoundly thoughtful.

    Alice Adams Booth Tarkington
  • In his mouth was a cigarette, and in his buttonhole a pink carnation.

    A Spirit in Prison Robert Hichens
  • Let him go with his flower in his buttonhole and dance somewhere else.

    Rosinante to the Road Again

    John Dos Passos
  • He was very dapper in a new tailcoat and a flower in his buttonhole.


    Jane Abbott
  • Once he stooped to pick a flower which he stuck in his buttonhole.

    Peak and Prairie Anna Fuller
  • He was cool and jaunty, his hands in his pockets, a rose in his buttonhole.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • A pink carnation in his buttonhole matched his healthy complexion.

    The Girl on the Boat Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
  • The fellow is to wear a white top hat, and a gardenia in his buttonhole.

  • buttonhole stitch can be turned to account for this purpose.

British Dictionary definitions for buttonhole


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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buttonhole 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 buttonhole



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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