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 Particularly at risk to be pigeonholed and marginalized are women, introverts, introverts of color, and immigrants who may be bringing non-majority cultural norms to the workplace. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "Feliz #HispanicHeritageMonth: raceAhead," 16 Sep. 2019 Asian actors were still pigeonholed into narrow and reductive parts: Randall Park, for example, played doctors over and over again early in his career, including on Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Bold and the Beautiful. Andrew R. Chow, Time, "Crazy Rich Asians Kicked Down the Door. Now Asian Americans Are Fighting To Stay in the Room," 10 July 2019 Such trolling would be unheard of by past presidents but Trump has never shied away from using social media to mock and pigeonhole his opponents. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "Are you getting ready for the Democratic debates? Here is what you should know.," 25 June 2019 But, don’t pigeonhole people —their feelings may change over time. Gwen Moran, Fortune, "How to Tell If Your Job Is a Stepping Stone to a Career," 9 Sep. 2019 Men and women have traditionally been pigeonholed into specific roles that are constricting and sometimes feel inauthentic. Amy Dickinson, BostonGlobe.com, "Woman is torn between career and motherhood," 6 July 2019 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

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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Statistics for pigeonhole

Time Traveler for pigeonhole

The first known use of pigeonhole was in 1577

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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).


concealed or difficult to comprehend

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