: to detain in conversation by or as if by holding on to the outer garments of
Did You Know?
Buttonhole is easy to pin down as a noun referring to the slit or loop through which a button is passed to fasten something, but its shift to a verb meaning "to detain in conversation" requires some explanation. Buttonhole is an alteration of another verb now long out of use: buttonhold, which literally meant to hold on to the buttons or lapels of someone's coat when speaking to him or her. In the mid-19th century, English speakers altered the verb to buttonhole, perhaps as a result of hearing buttonhold as buttonholed. The overlap is apparent in an early instance of this spelling in an 1862 London publication called All Year Round: "The man who is button-holed, or held … and must listen to half an hour's harangue about nothing interesting."
"Her colleagues remember [Shila] Kaur at the annual World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, buttonholing senior health officials and patiently explaining to them why people thousands of miles away needed better access to medicines or were worried about the rise of antibiotic resistance." — Andrew Green, The Lancet, 13 Jan. 2018
"… rather than forcing her out, they turned her into a household name, someone who is stopped in the street by fans keen to take a selfie with a champion of human rights. And indeed I witnessed such popular support; she arrived a few minutes ahead of me, and had already been buttonholed by the time I stomped up those restaurant stairs." — Michael Short, The Age (Melbourne, Australia), 12 May 2018
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Unscramble the letters to create a verb referring to the act of approaching and speaking to someone in a challenging or aggressive way: CSOATC.VIEW THE ANSWER
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