verb (used with object), pi·geon·holed, pi·geon·hol·ing.

Origin of pigeonhole

First recorded in 1570–80; pigeon1 + hole

Synonyms for pigeonhole

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pigeon-hole

Historical Examples of pigeon-hole

  • 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.

  • 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?

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 (tr)

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

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