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

There’s no way to really pigeonhole the region because there’s a lot of great people all over. Ben Flanagan | Bflanagan@al.com, al, "Marc Maron and Lynn Shelton on a 'cultural re-education’ on the South, filming ‘Sword of Trust’ in Alabama," 21 Aug. 2019 To be sure, his platform resisted all attempts at pigeonholing. Gilbert Garcia, ExpressNews.com, "Bitter medicine of Perot’s 1992 campaign wouldn’t sell today," 10 July 2019 Men and women have traditionally been pigeonholed into specific roles that are constricting and sometimes feel inauthentic. Amy Dickinson, The Denver Post, "Ask Amy: Woman is torn between career and motherhood," 8 July 2019 Niantic hasn’t let Pokémon Go’s success pigeonhole its Potter fantasia. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite," 25 June 2019 Initially, Strava focused on riding and running, which led many to pigeonhole it as a boutique endurance app. Joe Lindsey, Outside Online, "The Coach That Meets You in Your Inbox," 24 June 2019 Having a country rap song become a phenomenon in 2019 — which definitively was not the year of the country rap song until Billy Ray Cyrus butted in — inherently pigeonholes him into something of a novelty act. Brian Josephs, EW.com, "Lil Nas X goes through the motions on debut EP 7," 21 June 2019 When Clarkson wasn't ready for the battle against Dylan Hartigan During the blind auditions, Clarkson commended Cartelli for her sonic flexibility, suggesting that the young powerhouse dabble in different genres to avoid getting pigeonholed. Abby Jones, Billboard, "'The Voice' Winner Brynn Cartelli's 6 Best Performances From Season 14: Watch," 23 May 2018 Pickles, however, haven't pigeonholed the billionaire in the past. Andrew Daniels, Popular Mechanics, "Here's How to Watch SpaceX Launch Its Starlink Satellites," 15 May 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

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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