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[pij-uh n-hohl] /ˈpɪdʒ ənˌhoʊl/
one of a series of small, open compartments, as in a desk, cabinet, or the like, used for filing or sorting papers, letters, etc.
a hole or recess, or one of a series of recesses, for pigeons to nest in.
Also called pigeon hole, white hole. Printing. white space created by setting words or lines too far apart.
verb (used with object), pigeonholed, pigeonholing.
to assign to a definite place or to definite places in some orderly system:
to pigeonhole new ideas.
to lay aside for use or reference at some later, indefinite time:
We must pigeonhole this excellent plan until the time is ripe.
to put aside for the present, especially with the intention of ignoring or forgetting, often indefinitely:
to pigeonhole an unwanted invitation.
to place in or as if in a pigeonhole or pigeonholes:
to pigeonhole papers.
to fit or provide with pigeonholes:
The desk must be pigeonholed for all my papers.
Origin of pigeonhole
First recorded in 1570-80; pigeon1 + hole
4. categorize, catalog. 5. file. 6. postpone, shelve. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pigeon-hole
Historical Examples
  • The Caucasian God was taken out of His pigeon-hole and publicly recognised.

  • But the ways of men who could pigeon-hole a recommendation like that are difficult to understand.

    Policing the Plains R.G. MacBeth
  • I declare, if that mouse didn't knock a letter out of the pigeon-hole!

  • Every pigeon-hole had been ransacked and the contents were piled up in a confused heap.

    The Green Rust Edgar Wallace
  • Now into what pigeon-hole of my brain did that go, and why do I suddenly remember it now?

  • He took the letter from Steering and replaced it in the pigeon-hole.

    Sally of Missouri

    R. E. Young
  • The doorkeeper, from his pigeon-hole, handed her some letters.

    Ghetto Comedies

    Israel Zangwill
  • As I lay in a pigeon-hole of his desk, I often saw him get out his books and study.

  • Then, indeed, we can docket it, and pigeon-hole it for what it is; but what can we do with it till we have got it pure?

    Luck or Cunning Samuel Butler
  • It was the one Mr. Bently had taken from a pigeon-hole where it had been since the day before.

    Meg of Mystery Mountain

    Grace May North
British Dictionary definitions for pigeon-hole


a small compartment for papers, letters, etc, as in a bureau
a hole or recess in a dovecote for pigeons to nest in
(informal) a category or classification
verb (transitive)
to put aside or defer
to classify or categorize, esp in a rigid manner
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 pigeon-hole

also pigeonhole, 1570s, "a small recess for pigeons to nest in," from pigeon + hole (n.). Meaning "a compartment in a writing desk," etc. is from 1680s, based on resemblance. The verb is from 1840 literally; figurative sense of "label mentally" is from 1870.

[Y]ou will have an inspector after you with note-book and ink-horn, and you will be booked and pigeon-holed for further use when wanted. ["Civilisation--The Census," "Blackwood's Magazine," Oct. 1854]
Related: Pigeonholed.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for pigeon-hole



  1. To classify; identify; button down, peg: I pigeonhole this clown as a total bigmouth (1870+)
  2. To put away or aside (1855+)

[fr the separate compartments of a desk or sorting system, likened to the orifices in a pigeoncote]

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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