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This question has been created to split two questions previously asked here


plain wooden desk with empty draw space

It is a "hole" in a desk. What can I call this? Can I say "Put your books into the hole"?

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  • 1
    I'd just call it a shelf.
    – The Photon
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:44
  • 3
    Honestly, I'd just say "put your books in your desk" and not bother naming it at all. That said, if I were asked to name it, I'd probably use cubby (first instinct), shelf, or maybe drawer, despite the fact that you don't pull it open.
    – Doc
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 21:42

8 Answers 8

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That internal area is called a "compartment". (If it had a container that you could slide out to place your things inside more readily, that would be a "drawer".)

(A "hole" is too generic of a term, and would not be associated with the desk; a "slot" would be a long, narrow hole that allows you to insert, for example, an envelope into an otherwise closed compartment. This desk has a (closed) drawer with a slot.)

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I would use one of the following terms:
pigeonhole, “A nook in a desk for holding papers”
recess, “An inset, hole, space or opening”
cubbyhole, “A small compartment; a pigeonhole”
desk pocket, with pocket used in the sense of a receptacle, indention, or cavity

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    I have specific preconceptions about all those terms (except "desk pocket", which I haven't heard) that would prevent me from using them: pigeonholes occur in multiples and are usually sized for holding envelopes or folded papers; recesses are shallow, not extending the full depth of the item; cubbyholes have (approximately) square openings, not short and wide.
    – Hellion
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 17:36
  • Your preconception for pigeonhole is sense 2, “one of an array of compartments...”, at the reference I gave. I referred to sense 1. Your preconception that a cubbyhole has an (approximately) square opening seems idiosyncratic; do you have any evidence it isn't idiosyncratic? Commented May 14, 2013 at 17:44
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    Well, there's google image search for "cubbyhole" where the relevant results (ignoring strip clubs, bars, etc.) mostly agree with me, but otherwise I don't have a reference. I should also say that cubbyholes are clearly larger than pigeonholes; if I were going to define a difference between them, I'd say that if you can stand an average paperback book upright in it, it's too big for "pigeonhole" and must be a "cubbyhole" (or "nook", or "compartment", depending on its shape, I suppose) instead.
    – Hellion
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 18:34
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The hole in that desk can be called a slot. See this definiton.

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5

One could call the "compartment" a cubby, a cubbyhole, a pigeonhole (although a pigeonhole is usually smaller), or a recess, but the simplest, most common English word might be shelf.

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Apart from anything else that does not look practical. What would you put in there? Paper? Exercise books?

  • I would not describe that space as being a slot. A slot is a snug, tight hole, usually horizontal, and just enough space to slide something in. A coin for example. A slot machine, for example is another name for a fruit machine. In that case the coin slot is usually vertical.

  • I wouldn't call it a hole. A hole tends to be round, not always, but if you were to ask someone to draw a hole in the wall it would be round shaped.

  • Personally I would call it an "open drawer" or a "paper drawer" or "an open unit" or a "paper storage nook". Google provided this possibility:

Open paper storage drawer The actual piece of furniture is called "a four drawer open paper storage".

But admittedly it is a bit of a mouthful. It would take you longer to say to a friend: " Please put the book into the open paper storage drawer." than to put the actual book away yourself. "Hole" then would be fine, life's too short.

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The most common parlance I've used for this is over my years in school was to just "put [object] in your desk." We usually don't refer to it as a compartment, but that would make sense.

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If you talking about one in a public space, such as a school, I think the best term I would suggest is "Doom Hole". Such as: "Woe betide anybody who put their hand in that doom hole."

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  • Why would someone call it a doom hole? What happens when you put your hand in that compartment that is so negative that it qualifies for that designation?
    – Joachim
    Commented Mar 3 at 11:16
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In the US, the most widely understood term would be Cubbyhole.

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