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

Verb 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 But turns out Miami’s new coaches envision him as a pass catching, third-down back and have pigeonholed him there. Omar Kelly, sun-sentinel.com, "Kelly: Kenyan Drake deserves to be set free by Dolphins | Commentary," 17 Oct. 2019 The magnitude of the Me Too movement made pigeonholing each one of us impossible. Washington Post, "Chanel Miller is a sexual-assault survivor. She’s also a daughter, a girlfriend, an artist, a stand-up comedian.," 14 Nov. 2019 But seeing Kravitz as Catwoman is especially significant because the actor, who has been vocal about the ways in which casting directors pigeonhole women of color, was actually turned away from a smaller role in a past Batman production. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Zoë Kravitz Is Your New Catwoman," 15 Oct. 2019 Much of the analysis of the 2020 race has focused on ideology, with pundits attempting to pigeonhole the candidates into left-wing and moderate lanes that could better explain their strengths. Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review, "What’s Behind Buttigieg’s Iowa Surge?," 20 Nov. 2019 For a musician who never stopped evolving, Corgan felt pigeonholed into a single sound from his own past. Longreads, "A Fresh Look at The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1998 Album Adore," 24 Oct. 2019 Not wanting to be pigeonholed into a defensive coordinator role, Collins declined to be interviewed for this story. Rusty Simmons, SFChronicle.com, "Warriors’ search for defensive identity begins without usual stable of wings," 3 Oct. 2019 The film’s surprise success catapulted him into superstardom, though he was often pigeonholed as a mysterious, gun-toting hero. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Antonio Banderas Is One of the Best Movie Stars of His Generation," 27 Sep. 2019 Sonny Figueroa/The New York Times Many cuisines brought by immigrants to the United States have long been pigeonholed as cheap and plentiful, part of a high-volume, low-margin business. Eric Asimov, New York Times, "Malbecs From Argentina Fight the Stereotypes," 7 Nov. 2019

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of pigeonhole was in 1577

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Statistics for pigeonhole

Cite this Entry

“Pigeonhole.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pigeonhole. Accessed 23 January 2020.

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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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on pigeonhole

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pigeonhole

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pigeonhole

Spanish Central: Translation of pigeonhole

Nglish: Translation of pigeonhole for Spanish Speakers

Comments on pigeonhole

What made you want to look up pigeonhole? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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