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When I look up the definition for "bolt hole" on Google or in most dictionaries, I am surprised to find that the definition does not include something similar to "a hole for bolts".

bolt hole definition

The current given definition is fine (it makes sense that the hole which an animal hides in when it "bolts" from danger would be called a "bolthole"), but I don't understand why there is no mention of mechanical bolts in the definition at all. Clearly, there are at least two definitions for the word "bolt". When I Google the definition for that, the first one is "a threaded pin that screws into a nut and is used to fasten things together." The secondary definition is "move or run away suddenly." The definition of "bolthole" seems to use the secondary definition of "bolt" and eliminate all other uses as options.

Am I missing something here? How would one go about referring to holes for bolts if not by saying "bolt holes"?

I should note that as a mechanical engineer, I use "bolt" to refer to the mechanical part far more often than the action of running away suddenly. Therefore, the use of the "bolthole" described above was quite surprising to me.

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    Do you expect dictionaries to define every hole that a given object can fit through? – AmE speaker Jan 11 at 23:31
  • No, it just seems to me that the term "bolt hole" would be used far more commonly to refer to holes for bolts than to refer to holes that easily startled animals flee to. – tlewis3348 Jan 12 at 10:42
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Most dictionaries just give the figurative, yes. But the OED gives both:

bolt-hole in bolt, n. OED

n. a hole through which a bolt passes (literal)

bolt-hole, n. OED

the escape sense (figurative)

but ... with separate listings, for why I do not know. Indeed many listing just give the figurative definition only.

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The other definition is simply too trivial to be in the dictionary. It would be two words, like "screw hole" or "pilot hole". You'll find the latter listed as it's not obvious, but probably not the former which can be understood as the sum of its parts.

  • Yep, too trivial to be in a dictionary. A hole for a bolt can be called a "bolt hole" (see e.g. this pdf link and the definition for striking plate), but that's just using bolt as an adjective for the noun hole. NB Based on that pdf document, it's only used where a hole has been hollowed out for the bolt to slide into; where the bolt slides into a protruding metal part, that part is called a Staple. – AndyT Jan 11 at 16:19
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    @AndyT that suggests we need to deal with bolt as in lock vs. bolt as in screw. Except we don't because context deals with that – Chris H Jan 11 at 16:21
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    Dog food and light switch are mentioned in dictionaries. I don't know why, but they seem just as self-explanatory as bolt hole. Actually even more so because I think bolt can have more meanings. – Zebrafish Jan 11 at 20:34
  • @AndyT, nitpick: replace "an adjective" with "a modifier". It's a noun-noun noun phrase. – Peter Taylor Jan 13 at 8:53
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I would suggest that mechanical bolts generally go through either "holes" (or perhaps "punched holes"?), or "threaded holes" for holes with a matching thread cut into them. Depending on your target audience however you may need additional disambiguation to ensure they understand that the context.

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