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 pigeonhole (audio) \ 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: Noun Pascal, for one, is ready to do away with the pigeonhole. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, "Can real men love ‘Little Women’? Greta Gerwig thinks they should.," 19 Dec. 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which did much to mold the state’s ethos, also has become harder to pigeonhole. The Salt Lake Tribune, "A year full of American rancor, with a dash of Utah Nice," 25 Dec. 2020 Johnson wants to play cornerback in college, but to pigeonhole him purely as a defensive back would be selling him short. Wright Wilson, Detroit Free Press, "Does Michigan football have the inside track on five-star Will Johnson?," 3 Oct. 2020 No use trying to pigeonhole Joshua Johnson, an MSNBC journalist raised in a military family in West Palm Beach with a news-talk TV show debuting Saturday, Sept. 19. Ben Crandell, sun-sentinel.com, "5 questions for South Florida native Joshua Johnson before MSNBC news show premiere," 15 Sep. 2020 That could pigeonhole the type of line the Dolphins can feature. Omar Kelly, sun-sentinel.com, "Kelly: Dolphins still experimenting with starting O-line with season opener fast approaching | Commentary," 1 Sep. 2020 Please don’t try to characterize or pigeonhole anyone based on their astrological sign. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, "Calendar Feedback: Season tickets support of the L.A. Phil," 9 May 2020 Season 2, despite its often absurd settings and awkward dialogue, raises the ante, Sharma noted, and the characters make bolder decisions, turning them into messier, more difficult-to-pigeonhole versions of themselves. Alisha Haridasani Gupta, New York Times, "With ‘Four More Shots Please!,’ India Gets Its Own ‘Sex and the City’," 8 May 2020 Its owner, David Ruiz, who is Colombian American, is a mezcal fanatic but didn’t want to pigeonhole Junior as a mezcal bar. Esther Mobley, SFChronicle.com, "The next drinks trend: Just put the word ‘hard’ in front of any beverage name," 5 Mar. 2020 Labeling Latino comedy is pigeonholing a little bit. Hector Saldana, ExpressNews.com, "HA Festival: The Art of Comedy in San Antonio reinvents Latino Laugh Festival for a new generation," 19 Feb. 2020

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

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The first known use of pigeonhole was in 1577

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Cite this Entry

“Pigeonhole.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pigeonhole. Accessed 28 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for pigeonhole


How to pronounce pigeonhole (audio)

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on pigeonhole

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pigeonhole

Nglish: Translation of pigeonhole for Spanish Speakers

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