place·​hold·​er | \ ˈplās-ˌhōl-dər How to pronounce placeholder (audio) \
plural placeholders

Definition of placeholder

1 : a person or thing that occupies the position or place of another person or thing The bill would empower the governor to appoint a placeholder to a vacant U.S. Senate seat, to serve through the next general election cycle.— John Sharp The result was that the legislation represented little more than a placeholder to put the budget before a conference committee …— Carl Ingram
2 : a symbol in a mathematical or logical expression that may be replaced by the name of any element of a set
3 American football : a player who places and holds the ball upright on the ground for placekicking of a field goal

Examples of placeholder in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Trump went through the most defense secretaries of any one-term president in history — two who had been confirmed by the Senate and three others who served only in an acting, placeholder capacity. Robert Burns, Star Tribune, "Gen. Milley key to military continuity as Biden takes office," 17 Jan. 2021 Comeau followed a similar path to Benn, and looked like a placeholder alongside Tanner Kero and Joe Pavelski as Alexander Radulov took a maintenance day Wednesday. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "Hit by an early-season injury bug, even the Stars aren’t sure who will be available vs. Red Wings," 27 Jan. 2021 The Marksman feels like a placeholder for the next act of Liam Neeson’s career. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, "In The Marksman, Liam Neeson Idles in Place," 16 Jan. 2021 This would raise revenue to avoid up to $8 billion in unspecified cuts to education and social-service funding that state lawmakers authorized in April as a placeholder in the current $178 billion budget. Jimmy Vielkind, WSJ, "New York State Lawmakers Weigh Tax Increase on Wealthy," 16 Dec. 2020 This clever little book is, as the title promises, a compendium of nothing but carrot recipes—carrot soup, carrot gumdrops, macaroni and carrot—though the titular root is a placeholder (or maybe a metaphor) as much as a literal ingredient. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, "The Best Cookbooks of 2020," 15 Dec. 2020 In Michigan, the voting software requires a birthday for each voter, and if the clerk doesn’t have it, 1/1/1901 is used as a placeholder. Natalie Gontcharova,, "Trump Lost The U.S. Election. Why Do His Supporters Refuse To Believe It?," 23 Nov. 2020 But that money is not anywhere in the budget, Lyons said, except for about $450,000 in the E-911 budget as a placeholder. Steve Lord,, "Aurora police budget to dip slightly in 2021," 20 Nov. 2020 That larger Bronco goes on sale next summer as a 2021 model, but the Bronco Sport is much more than a placeholder until Big Brother arrives. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "2021 Ford Bronco Sport scores with surprising off-road ability, striking looks," 8 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'placeholder.' 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 placeholder

1927, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for placeholder

Time Traveler

The first known use of placeholder was in 1927

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Statistics for placeholder

Last Updated

17 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Placeholder.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for placeholder


place·​hold·​er | \ ˈplās-ˌhōl-dər How to pronounce placeholder (audio) \

Kids Definition of placeholder

: a symbol (as x, Δ, *) used in mathematics in the place of a numeral

More from Merriam-Webster on placeholder

Britannica English: Translation of placeholder for Arabic Speakers

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