Definition of pigeonhole in English:



  • 1A small recess for a domestic pigeon to nest in.

    • ‘Her grids may symbolize pigeonholes but she pays homage to the individuality of people.’
    • ‘Her route in the north tower has been transformed into a 6ft-by - 6ft steel cubicle (called a ‘sorting case’) surrounded by tall metal racks of pigeonholes.’
    • ‘The ladder structure and the thousands of pigeonholes lining the inside are an amazing sight.’
    • ‘It's fortunate that they set up those pigeonholes because some of the pigeons have come home to roost.’
  • 2A small compartment, open at the front and forming part of a set, where letters or messages may be left for individuals.

    • ‘There are also lockers next to the pigeonholes. Ask the porters.’
    • ‘Every morning I'd check my pigeonhole in case the letter had finally arrived telling me that a distant relative had died and I was now the heir to a title and a vast estate.’
    • ‘They're housed in an old set of pigeonholes from a school.’
    • ‘Two weeks later I found his six pages of tightly typed notes in my pigeonhole.’
    • ‘You must check your pigeonhole regularly to collect any mail, or messages left there by tutors, lecturers or administrative staff.’
    • ‘It is basically one long corridor with a few alleys off the side. Right in the middle of it is an area called ‘the boxes’, which is a row of large pigeonholes for all the various media organisations where people leave their media releases.’
    • ‘He is already receiving fan mail: ‘Three weeks after my first episode, I had a full pigeonhole of mail which was surprising.’’
    • ‘The tape player and the CD player are left of the phone, with pigeonholes for all the various storage items that Judy needs close at hand.’
    • ‘As soon as I reached the government headquarters, I headed on my usual tour of the various notice boards and pigeonholes to find any job details that may concern me, then headed for my locker.’
    • ‘The depth of each shelf is too deep - they look like pigeonholes.’
    • ‘Her towering friend abruptly became more animated, seeing Maria entering the room and strolling over to her pigeonhole where an abundance of documents were stacked.’
    • ‘Crystal collected her mail from her pigeonhole down in the kitchen.’
    • ‘Next to the pigeonholes is a desk with a computer on it, an empty, worn swivel chair waiting.’
    • ‘The nearest public telephones are located in Paupers Walk, next to the pigeonholes.’
    • ‘He looked in his pigeonhole, out of habit he assured himself rather than hope that he would be granted a place on the train-driving course.’
    cubbyhole, compartment, slot, locker, niche
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    1. 2.1 A compartment built into a desk for keeping documents in.
      • ‘Putting our heads together, we came up with a construct rather like an old-fashioned pigeonhole desk that fits neatly between the forward cabin bulkheads.’
      • ‘Black diamonds outlined by stringing and a cross-banded mahogany-veneer border highlight the doors, which open to reveal additional pigeonholes and drawers.’
      • ‘He was taken with the rows of pigeonholes and small drawers in the hutch along the back of it.’
      • ‘It has a cross-banded panel that falls down and a section behind it pulls out to reveal a fitted interior of pigeonholes above drawers flanking a central section of nine drawers arranged in three rows.’
      • ‘The interior, which features a lighter wood - probably maple - is the most ambitious element of the desk, with stepped drawers, shaped pigeonhole valances, and a secret compartment.’
      cubbyhole, compartment, slot, locker, niche
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  • 3A category, typically an overly restrictive one, to which someone or something is assigned.

    ‘people identified me with a homely farmer's wife and I was never allowed to escape from that pigeonhole’
    • ‘Shunning pigeonholes doesn't necessarily make for earth-shattering innovation.’
    • ‘The pigeonhole that he occupies is that of the landscapist-turned-abstractionist, and many viewers seem unwilling to grant him more than this description affords.’
    • ‘We already know how the system works; when you don't fit into the acceptable pigeonholes, you're the object of derision, or worse.’
    • ‘But only those who are both exceptionally talented and exceptionally savvy can escape the ethnic pigeonhole.’
    • ‘I do not want the pigeonhole of being ‘working class’, because it suggests that I am part of a group or club.’
    • ‘In an effort to escape their pigeonhole, the band are back, with haircuts and a second album that is quite different from the first.’
    • ‘She was a clever and sparky individual who could have flourished in any number of fields - had she not been packed into the pigeonhole marked ‘princess’.’
    • ‘What it means is that they can't find a convenient pigeonhole in which to place this person's work.’
    • ‘Second, the products of the new technologies are sometimes hard to fit into the law's pigeonholes.’
    • ‘It is so refreshing and inspiring to see people who live and behave outside of the pigeonholes that they have been slotted into.’
    • ‘If you were forced to put this best-selling pianist's music into a pigeonhole then the classical genre would have to do.’
    • ‘The worst thing about his stay in the psychiatric hospital, he says, was the concentrated pressure to conform to someone else's idea of a regular guy, to slot neatly into a pigeonhole.’
    • ‘Each composer is placed in a pigeonhole or assigned to a particular school, while those who do not fit comfortably under any of the standard-isms get a category all to themselves.’
    • ‘This's a sophisticated and fun album, and there's not a genre or pigeonhole anywhere that can diminish its originality and life-loving energy.’
    • ‘So as you can imagine it was just a little bit difficult to find the exact pigeonhole to file them under.’
    • ‘But there's always that remote possibility that they'll transcend their pigeonhole and come with something harder, or just better.’
    • ‘The half-hour quiz show was a chance for Jane to escape her pigeonhole as that Yorkshire lass who sings ballads.’
    • ‘That would be the most logical thing to do, and I wanted it to be free of all pigeonholes.’
    • ‘We call this new sort of person a terrorist for lack of any better term, but we do not really have any pigeonholes in which he fits, nor any sense of what institutions and practices will be required to cope with him.’
    • ‘It doesn't fit into the pigeonholes with which marketing departments are comfortable.’
    category, categorization, compartment, class, classification, group, grouping, grade, grading, designation, set, section, division
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[with object]
  • 1Deposit (a document) into a pigeonhole.

    ‘he pigeonholed his charts and notes’
    • ‘He then pigeonholed the letter and forgot about it until yesterday.’
    • ‘Pierce accepted his words as final and pigeonholed the message.’
    1. 1.1 Assign to a particular category or class, especially in a manner that is too rigid or exclusive.
      ‘a tendency to pigeonhole him as a photographer and neglect his work in sculpture and painting’
      • ‘When pressed, he identifies a tendency among senior managers to pigeonhole black presenters as the voices of ‘ghettos and estates’.’
      • ‘We are able to be our full, awkward selves, instead of the selves pigeonholed by our sexual identities.’
      • ‘This shouldn't be pigeonholed as a religious issue or a religious controversy.’
      • ‘They will probably pigeonhole us just the same.’
      • ‘It is unfortunate but fairly likely that he will be niched and pigeonholed with this debut novel.’
      • ‘Teenagers are retaliating against being pigeonholed as anti-social yobs by holding a day of neighbourhood action.’
      • ‘If you've accurately pigeonholed someone, chances are what they're saying will match what you expect anyway.’
      • ‘For this reason parents and teachers traditionally guard against pigeonholing students in certain categories.’
      • ‘But things have changed over the years, and I wouldn't want to pigeonhole myself in the next two years, I'll just see what comes up.’
      • ‘Nanotechnology is in danger of being pigeonholed as a risky, hazardous and controversial business, a new study has found, because companies in the emerging field are not tackling the very real health and safety issues involved.’
      • ‘They've been unfairly pigeonholed as a team that kicks to the corners all the time.’
      • ‘With her title of ‘clinical coordinator’ her status could not be pigeonholed by royal college certification or rubber stamped with a consultant grade, but her accomplishment speaks for itself.’
      • ‘I don't mind being pigeonholed as long as people buy it and enjoy it.’
      • ‘He's an intelligent man, and no-one likes being pigeonholed as a black-hearted satirist so early in their career.’
      • ‘We don't want to be pigeonholed as being value or growth investors.’
      • ‘I am an attractive girl working in the media who happens to be a lesbian, but I did not want to be pigeonholed as a ‘gay voice‘.’
      • ‘However, the artist was not pleased to be pigeonholed as simply a cartoonist, particularly as this categorisation intensified in the public's mind - he took his other work just as seriously, and wanted to extend his repertoire further.’
      • ‘These classifications place the rocks into pigeonholes which, although useful, tend to conceal the fact that there is a continuum of rock compositions.’
      • ‘Some people may not like the changes on this record, but I don't want to be pigeonholed.’
      • ‘Jackie is an American living in the UK and she doesn't like being pigeonholed so I'll avoid trying to place here on the political spectrum.’
      categorize, compartmentalize, classify, characterize, label, brand, tag, designate, grade, codify, sort, rank, rate
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    2. 1.2 Put aside for future consideration.
      ‘she pigeonholed her worry about him’
      • ‘Pete pigeonholed his anxiety. There was nothing to be done now except hurry, and they were never invincible in the first place.’
      postpone, put off, put back, defer, shelve, delay, hold over, put on one side, lay aside, adjourn, suspend, put on ice, mothball, put in cold storage
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