See also: pigeon-hole and pigeon hole


Literal pigeonholes
A desk featuring pigeonholes
A pigeon-hole messagebox at Stanford University.
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pigeon +‎ hole.

Originally literal hole for pigeons, later similar compartments for paper, then extended metaphorically in verb sense of narrowly categorizing or deferring.


  • (file)


pigeonhole (plural pigeonholes)

  1. One of an array of compartments for housing pigeons.
  2. One of an array of compartments for receiving mail and other messages at a college, office, etc.
    Fred was disappointed to find his pigeonhole empty except for bills and a flyer offering 20% off on manicures.
  3. One of an array of compartments for storing scrolls at a library.
  4. A similar compartment in a desk, used for sorting and storing papers.



pigeonhole (third-person singular simple present pigeonholes, present participle pigeonholing, simple past and past participle pigeonholed)

  1. To categorize; especially to limit or be limited to a particular category, role, etc.
    Fred was tired of being pigeonholed as a computer geek.
    • 1902, Jack London, A Daughter of the Snows
      He prided himself on his largeness when he granted that there were three kinds of women... Not that he pigeon-holed Frona according to his inherited definitions.
  2. To put aside, to not act on (proposals, suggestions, advice).
    • 1910, Angus Hamilton, Herbert Henry Austin, Masatake Terauchi, Korea: Its History, Its People, and Its Commerce, page 294
      These laws were not carried into effect: they were pigeon-holed.
    • 1917, The Crisis, November 1917 issue, The Looking Glass: Election laws in Southern California, page 29
      [...] vociferously declared that they had the evidence. But no one prosecutes. No one swears out a warrant. The evidence is pigeonholed.
    • 2008, Edward Sidlow, Beth Henschen, America at Odds, page 251
      Alternatively, the chairperson may decide to put the bill aside and ignore it. Most bills that are pigeonholed in this manner receive no further action.



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