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pi·​geon·​hole ˈpi-jən-ˌhōl How to pronounce pigeonhole (audio)
: a hole or small recess for pigeons to nest
: a small open compartment (as in a desk or cabinet) for keeping letters or documents
: a neat category which usually fails to reflect actual complexities


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pigeonholed; pigeonholing; pigeonholes

transitive verb

: to place in or as if in the pigeonhole of a desk
: to lay aside : shelve
his reports continued to be pigeonholed and his advice not takenWalter Mills
: to assign to an often restrictive category : classify
pigeonholer noun

Examples of pigeonhole in a Sentence

Verb She likes to perform different types of music because she doesn't want to be pigeonholed.
Recent Examples on the Web
Both Los Angeles and Mexico City have dining ecosystems too vast to pigeonhole; flashy glamour will always be part of them. Bill Addison, Los Angeles Times, 13 July 2023 Entertaining—and admittedly not too significant—statements can be derived from the pigeonhole principle. Manon Bischoff, Scientific American, 20 Mar. 2023 No doubt the actress has also been misunderstood, having to escape a pigeonhole that her beloved April put her in. Tim Grierson, Los Angeles Times, 12 June 2023 His style was always far too slippery to pigeonhole. Andrew Barker, Variety, 7 June 2023 In fact, Leurechon also chose the example of hairiness to introduce the pigeonhole principle. Manon Bischoff, Scientific American, 20 Mar. 2023 The pigeonhole principle is usually attributed to Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet, who lived about 200 years after Leurechon. Manon Bischoff, Scientific American, 20 Mar. 2023 Now, all those necessities of travel must be poked into a narrow pigeonhole on the console, just forward of the shifter. Patrick Bedard, Car and Driver, 26 Jan. 2023 And to his credit, Leitch escapes that pigeonhole … only to get trapped in another. Tim Grierson, Vulture, 2 Dec. 2022
But Francis grew tired of being pigeonholed as a feature artist and craved further ownership of her identity and ethereal sound. Kalia Richardson, Rolling Stone, 23 Oct. 2023 Shifting considerations Justices are not always easy to pigeonhole, either. John A. Tures, The Conversation, 29 Sep. 2023 Wary of being sidelined, Love initially resisted being pigeonholed as a breast specialist. Corinne Purtill, Los Angeles Times, 5 July 2023 While students like Rayne are considering leaning more into race, other Black and Latino applicants may, like the Asian student, hide their race over concerns that admissions officers may pigeonhole or stereotype them. Jessica Cheung, New York Times, 4 Sep. 2023 But not wanting to be pigeonholed and hoping to expand his creative pursuits, Beyond stopped modeling in 1997. Elyssa Maxx Goodman, ELLE, 7 Sep. 2023 While pigeonholing has no place in their work, finishing each other’s sentences is a big part of the process. Erika Houle, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2023 While Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy eagerly take right-wing positions that are easy to pillory, Haley is much harder to pigeonhole. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 31 Aug. 2023 Like Nowitzki, Gasol was another 7-footer and wasn’t pigeonholed into a limited skillset. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY, 10 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pigeonhole.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1840, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of pigeonhole was in 1577

Dictionary Entries Near pigeonhole

Cite this Entry

“Pigeonhole.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pigeonhole. Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
pi·​geon·​hole -ˌhōl How to pronounce pigeonhole (audio)
: a small open compartment (as in a desk) for keeping letters or papers


2 of 2 verb
: to place in or as if in the pigeonhole of a desk

More from Merriam-Webster on pigeonhole

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