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See also: pigeon-hole and pigeon hole


Literal pigeonholes
A desk featuring pigeonholes
A pigeon-hole messagebox at Stanford University.
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Alternative forms[edit]


pigeon +‎ hole.

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


  • (file)


pigeonhole (plural pigeonholes)

  1. A nook in a desk for holding papers.
  2. One of an array of compartments for sorting post, messages, etc. at an office, or college (for example).
    Fred was disappointed at the lack of post in his pigeonhole.
  3. A hole or roosting place for pigeons.
  4. (historical) An Ancient Roman system of storage, used in libraries for keeping scrolls.



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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