pi·​geon·​hole | \ ˈpi-jən-ˌhōl How to pronounce pigeonhole (audio) \

Definition of pigeonhole

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a hole or small recess for pigeons to nest
2 : a small open compartment (as in a desk or cabinet) for keeping letters or documents
3 : a neat category which usually fails to reflect actual complexities


pigeonholed; pigeonholing; pigeonholes

Definition of pigeonhole (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to place in or as if in the pigeonhole of a desk
b : to lay aside : shelve his reports continued to be pigeonholed and his advice not taken— Walter Mills
2 : to assign to an often restrictive category : classify

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Other Words from pigeonhole


pigeonholer \ ˈpi-​jən-​ˌhō-​lər How to pronounce pigeonholer (audio) \ noun

Examples of pigeonhole in a Sentence


She likes to perform different types of music because she doesn't want to be pigeonholed.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Schumann created a nuanced new genre unfit for generic pigeonholes that includes aspects of opera, oratorio, chamber music and song. Mark Swed, latimes.com, "'Das Paradies': A giant globular tear as ticket to heaven," 4 June 2018 The more common punishment, however, is a pigeonhole. Lee Jenkins, SI.com, "Smooth Operator: Dwane Casey Is Still Ironing out Every Wrinkle He Can Find," 6 Mar. 2018 Taking their name from a childhood board game, Hüsker Dü evaded pigeonholes while outshining most of their punk brethren. Jason Heller, The Atlantic, "Remembering Hüsker Dü's Grant Hart," 9 Oct. 2017 Lynne grew increasingly frustrated with her Nashville pigeonhole, and was not shy about saying so in public. Mary Colurso | Mcolurso@al.com, AL.com, "Alabama's Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer: 2 music roads paved with tragedy and triumph," 25 Aug. 2017 The blisters that made him funnel pitches into a pigeonhole for two months are finally clearing up. Andrew Baggarly, The Mercury News, "Johnny Cueto’s future with Giants is up in the air," 3 June 2017 An NCAA title on Monday might finally show how enormous this is, how strong Gonzaga had to be to escape its pigeonhole. Mark Whicker, Orange County Register, "Whicker: Gonzaga didn’t do this overnight," 30 Mar. 2017 As pigeonholes go, this is a rather roomy one to be in. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "Who’s the uncanny JFK look-alike in ‘Jackie’?," 8 Mar. 2017 Similarly defying pigeonholes is Christopher Patton, who has optically transformed close-ups of his handwriting into a series of abstract images, made into a video loop. Gary Faigin, The Seattle Times, "Review: Diverse notions of drawing at the Whatcom Museum," 26 June 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Even Jeff himself is written in such a way that he can’t be pigeonholed as a character one way or the other. Karen Han, Vox, "Jim Carrey returns to TV on Showtime’s Kidding. It’s a messy triumph.," 8 Sep. 2018 People who explore and practice polyamory are sometimes pigeonholed as being unable to commit or create more permanent and secure attachments with one partner. Elly Belle, Teen Vogue, "What Is Polyamory?," 19 Oct. 2018 But part of what the Quad’s whoppingly extensive two-part retrospective demonstrates is that Hammer isn’t quite that easy to pigeonhole. Ben Kenigsberg, New York Times, "3 Film Series to Catch in N.Y.C. This Weekend," 31 May 2018 Before Aaron Nola ever got to the big leagues he was pigeonholed as a No. 3 starter — at best. Bob Brookover, Philly.com, "Aaron Nola aces opportunity to get Phillies to .500," 11 Apr. 2018 At the time, a social worker, foster parents and therapist pigeonholed the child, known then as Christina, as a troubled, pubescent girl who acted out for attention. Samantha Young, sacbee, "Should ‘gender-affirming health care’ be on the radar for California’s foster kids?," 2 July 2018 We're not pigeonholed into doing one thing or another. Sam Schube, GQ, "Kith's Ronnie Fieg Goes West," 16 Feb. 2018 Though originally pigeonholed in the genre, Hawthorne Heights set themselves apart with power pop and melodic hardcore influences. Yoshina Okamoto, Anchorage Daily News, "Post-hardcore band Hawthorne Heights heads to Anchorage," 29 June 2018 The show is about Ansari’s Dev looking for love in New York City, being a good son, being Indian-American, and trying to be an actor who isn’t pigeonholed into playing only heavy-accented cab drivers. Matthew Gilbert, BostonGlobe.com, "A guide to good Netflix vs. bad Netflix," 21 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pigeonhole.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pigeonhole


1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1840, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for pigeonhole

The first known use of pigeonhole was in 1577

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English Language Learners Definition of pigeonhole

 (Entry 1 of 2)

chiefly British : a small open space in a desk, cabinet, or wall for keeping letters or papers
disapproving used to say that someone or something is being unfairly thought of or described as belonging to a particular group, having only a particular skill, etc.



English Language Learners Definition of pigeonhole (Entry 2 of 2)

disapproving : to unfairly think of or describe (someone or something) as belonging to a particular group, having only a particular skill, etc.

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More from Merriam-Webster on pigeonhole

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pigeonhole

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pigeonhole

Spanish Central: Translation of pigeonhole

Nglish: Translation of pigeonhole for Spanish Speakers

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