Are the storage spaces of this piece of furniture called cubby holes? Can they be called cubby holes? I am specifically interested in American English.

I have consulted many dictionaries but I am not sure whether these storage spaces perfectly fit the definition of cubbyholes?

Also, in this YouTube video, entitled How to Build Mudroom Cubbies, the woman builds a piece of furniture (similar to the one below) and at 0:20 she refers to the storage spaces as cubbies

I'm showing how I built a free-standing cabinet that has cubbies for storing coats, baskets for hats and gloves, and hideaway shoe storage underneath.

but native speakers seem to be all over the place when it comes to naming things and that's confusing.

I have put red circles around the space units I think can be called cubbies/cubbyholes. (It's not the baskets I mean!)

enter image description here

  • 2
    I'd use 'cubbyhole' for any small, snug place. Those are too open and visible, and not particularly snug. You hide things in cubbyholes. You have put a red loop (not circle) around each compartment. I see you asked this question earlier and deleted it. Why didn't you just edit the first one? Didn't you like the answers you got first time around? Commented Jun 11 at 13:13
  • "Small" is a relative word. An open-fronted box-like space nearly filled by a child might be seen as small and described as a cubby-hole, but the same space occupied by a number of books might not be seen as small, and might be described as a book shelf.
    – Peter
    Commented Jun 11 at 14:21
  • I still don't know what to call them. Too many different answers.
    – S635
    Commented Jun 11 at 15:47
  • "Native speakers seem to be all over the place"—You mean, you've heard other terms for these? Please edit to tell a bit more about what you heard, or explain more about why you think "cubby/cubbyhole" is not an ok term here. Commented Jun 11 at 19:30
  • Don't post a new question every time you want a definite neatly packaged answer. Improve the question you already have, which is asking about the same thing, and which has attracted several answers. Improve, not rewrite, or change. The video link you provided in the newer post is a good source. It belongs in the question, not left in the comments.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 12 at 5:26

4 Answers 4


Yes. They can be called cubby holes. There are many other things they could also be called, usually a combination of location and the word shelf, hi, low, upper, lower, shelf.

Cubby hole works well and would be understood in most cases. It is the word I would use to describe them -- for whatever that's worth.

  • No need to downvote if you think comments can be used to help improve an answer!
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jun 11 at 13:33
  • 1
    This is the least "marked answer". And the explanation is good too. No one has mentioned though that cubbyhole is also a type of office space.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 11 at 14:40

I think the confusion is that cubby holes are usually used in children's classrooms. Most native speakers without children won't have heard the word "cubby" for many, many years. Describing any similar small, enclosed space for storing personal belongings as cubby holes will be understood by any native speaker as the meaning is perfectly clear, however, my guess is that the hosts of the YouTube video have children and the word "cubby" was already on their mind.

I personally would only describe the top row of enclosed spaces holding the baskets as cubby holes, but I'd do so reluctantly, with my preference being basically any other term. The middle row spaces are too large, and the bottom row is open at the bottom.

  • When I was aged 5-7 in a London (England) school a long time ago, each child was given a 'small, enclosed space for storing personal belongings' for the school year. It had a handwritten sticky label with your name on, they were in a kind of brown wooden rack thing, almost certainly dating from when the school was built (1900) and they were called pigeon holes. Commented Jun 11 at 19:09
  • I disagree somewhat; while the term is "cutesy," I find it in regular use in gyms, offices, etc. Commented Jun 11 at 19:32
  • I'd reserve "pigeon hole" for one of the smaller compartments in the picture, not the one for coats. A pigeon hole is named after the space a domesticated pigeon roosts in, which is pigeon-sized, maybe 20 cm by 20 cm or so; big enough for a large envelope if you bend it a bit. "Compartment" or "space" (or "storage space" etc) is much more neutral both in terms of size and cutesiness (although I don't think "cubby" would be weird in an office, I guess it might vary with the workplace, and a manly construction worker might feel different).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 12 at 12:01
  • In American English, "pigeon hole" is exclusively a verb and never a noun. Commented Jun 12 at 14:34
  • EDIT: Another American friend of mine disagrees with the above, they have used "pigeon hole" as a noun. I've never heard it used that way, though. Commented Jun 12 at 14:58

Yes, in America anyway, cubby hole or cubby is exactly what they are called, particularly in classrooms for young children. See, for instance, this vendor’s offerings.


I don't believe that is the correct name for them. A cubby hole is a small enclosed space or a room. It is usually called as such because it is formed from unused space, perhaps a byproduct of some other construction such as a space underneath a staircase.

a cubby hole

What I see in your image are purpose-built shelves in a shelf/storage unit. There might be different names for them but I would call them shelf spaces, and perhaps hanging spaces (where the clothes are hung). Someone else might call them storage compartments. As they are built into the wall you might also prefix those names with 'built-in', ie 'built-in hanging spaces'.

I also think that some might be confusing these with pigeon holes, which do look like the units you have on display but are traditionally for holding mail or other internal correspondence.

  • Thanks can you perhaps show me some pictures of cubbyholes?
    – S635
    Commented Jun 11 at 11:55
  • You're giving the definition of the word cubby hole (from the OED). I guess some may use it this way. If you showed me that and called it a cubby hole, I wouldn't disagree but I would not call it that without prompting. I would use cubby hole to describe what is shown in the OP's picture.
    – EllieK
    Commented Jun 11 at 12:12
  • Speakers of British English should consult Webster's before providing incorrect information from the OED when asked about American English. Please?
    – EllieK
    Commented Jun 11 at 12:15
  • 1
    @EllieK : a small snug place (as for hiding or storage) also : a cramped space (Merriam Webster). Seems like Astralbee is getting some totally undeserved downvotes, one of which I have been able to counteract, happily. Commented Jun 11 at 13:17
  • 1
    @Astralbee - Cubby Hole - a small snug space. I'm not sure which version of Webster's includes your 'or a room' but I didn't see in the one looked at. The room under stairs may be small but it's not snug. If it was snug, it could very well be an AmE cubby hole. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cubbyhole
    – EllieK
    Commented Jun 11 at 17:40

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