Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Originally buttonhold (a loop of string to hold a button down), but changed by folk etymology by influence of hole; see the Wikipedia article on folk etymology


  • (file)


buttonhole (plural buttonholes)

  1. A hole through which a button is pushed to secure a garment or some part of one.
  2. (chiefly Britain) A flower worn in a buttonhole for decoration.
    Synonym: boutonniere
  3. (medicine) A small slot-like cut or incision, made for example by an accident with the scalpel.
    • 2011, George L. Spaeth, Helen Danesh-Meyer, Ivan Goldberg, Ophthalmic Surgery: Principles and Practice E-Book (page 220)
      The usual cause of conjunctival buttonholes is penetration of the tissue by the tip of a sharp instrument []



buttonhole (third-person singular simple present buttonholes, present participle buttonholing, simple past and past participle buttonholed)

  1. To detain (a person) in conversation against their will.
    Synonyms: accost, waylay
    • 1880, Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, Chapter 26,[1]
      He backed Mr. Lykins against an iron fence, buttonholed him, fastened him with his eye, like the Ancient Mariner, and proceeded to unfold his narrative as placidly and peacefully as if we were all stretched comfortably in a blossomy summer meadow instead of being persecuted by a wintry midnight tempest:
    • 1936, Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind, New York: Macmillan, Part 5, Chapter 50, p. 890,[2]
      He buttonholed people on the street and related details of his child’s miraculous progress without even prefacing his remarks with the hypocritical but polite: “I know everyone thinks their own child is smart but—”
    • 2004, Philip Roth, The Plot Against America:
      Here they are, the brainless few we had been raised to pity and fear, the Stone Age oafs and the seething runts and the ominous, swaggering weightlifters, buttonholing kids like me out on Chancellor Avenue and telling us to keep our baseball bats at the ready in case we were called in the night to take to the streets [...]

Derived terms[edit]