Pigeonhole

PIgeonhole is an idiom that has been in use for over 150 years. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom pigeonhole, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Pigeonhole, when used as a verb, means to put something in a narrow category; often, the category is unnecessarily restrictive. For instance, an actor may be pigeonholed as a romantic lead and may never receive offers for other types of character roles. The connotation of the verb pigeonhole is one of restriction; the person or thing that has been pigeonholed may have more qualities than are being acknowledged. Pigeonhole is a closed compound word, which is a word derived from two or more separate words used together without a space or hyphen to create another word. Compound words are new words that have a different meaning from the definitions of the original words. The word pigeonhole came into use in the 1500s in a literal sense to mean a hole in which pigeons nest; 100 years later, the term pigeonhole was used to mean a cubby hole in a writing desk. In the mid-1800s, pigeonhole became a verb that means to put something in a narrow category. Related words are pigeonholes, pigeonholed, pigeonholing.

Examples

“From here, you can, over time, determine what you would like to specialise in — and minimise the risk of pigeonholing yourself into a specialisation suitable for your organisation or mentor or employer, but perhaps not suitable for you,” she said. (Lawyers Weekly)

Limiting potential from age 10: how girls pigeonhole themselves (The Guardian)

There had been an attempt to pigeonhole politics into Fine Gael versus Sinn Féin, and “we have demonstrated today there are progressive alternatives”. (Irish Times)