AskDefine | Define buttonhole

Dictionary Definition

buttonhole n : a hole through which buttons are pushed [syn: button hole] v : detain in conversation by or as if by holding on to the outer garments of; as for political or economic favors [syn: lobby]

User Contributed Dictionary



Originally buttonhold (a loop of string to hold a button down), but changed by folk etymology by influence of hole; see the Wikipedia article on folk etymology



  1. A hole through which a button is pushed to secure a garment or some part of one.
  2. In the context of "mostly|UK": a flower worn in a buttonhole for decoration



hole for a button
flower worn in the buttonhole for decoration


  1. To detain (a person) in conversation against their will.



Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Buttonholes are holes in fabric that are paired with functional buttons (as opposed to decorative buttons) that serve as fasteners. Buttonholes may be either made by hand sewing or automated by a sewing machine. A buttonhole may be replaced by a loop of cloth or rope, such as in a Mandarin button.
The etymology of the term buttonhole came from buttonhold (originally a loop of string that held a button down).


Buttonholes for fastening or closing clothing with buttons appeared first in Germany in the 13th century. They soon became widespread with the rise of snug-fitting garments in 13th- and 14th-century Europe.

Aspects of buttonholes

Buttonholes often have a bar at either end. This is a row of perpendicular hand or machine stitching to reinforce the ends of a buttonhole.
Traditionally, men's clothing buttonholes are on the left side, and women's clothing buttonholes are on the right.

Types of buttonholes

Hand stitching

  • A plain buttonhole, by far the most common type. In plain buttonholes, the raw (cut) edges of the textile are finished with thread in very closely spaced stitches (if made by hand, often the buttonhole stitch). When stitched by hand, a slit is made in the fabric first and the result is called a worked buttonhole.

Machined stitching

Sewing machines offer various levels of automation to creating plain buttonholes. When made by machine, the slit between the sides of the buttonhole is opened after the stiching is completed.
  • A machine-made buttonhole is usually sewn with two parallel rows of machine sewing in a narrow zig-zag stitch, with the ends finished in a broader zig-zag stitch. (One of the first automatic buttonhole machines was invented by Henry Alonzo House in 1862.)
  • A bound buttonhole, which has its raw edges encased by pieces of fabric or trim instead of stitches.
  • A keyhole buttonhole is a special case of a thread-finished buttonhole that is normally machine-made due to the difficulty of achieving it by hand working. It is characterized by a round hole at the end of the slit to accommodate the button's shank without distorting the fabric.
Keyhole buttonholes are most often found on tailored coats and jackets.


See also

buttonhole in Russian: Петля (одежда)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accost, address, apostrophize, appeal to, apply pressure, approach, beset, besiege, bespeak, blandish, bore, bore stiff, bore to death, bore to distraction, bore to tears, boutonniere, bug, cajole, call to, coax, corner, corsage, detain, dun, exert pressure, greet, hail, halloo, importune, invoke, nag, nag at, pester, plague, ply, press, pressure, push, salute, send to sleep, speak, speak fair, speak to, take aside, talk to, tease, urge, waylay, wheedle, work on
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