Round Peg Square Hole - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you feeling awkward around the team at your new job? You could say you feel like a "Round peg in a square hole."

The term is popular in modern culture, and you probably hear it from other people and in the media from time to time. This post unpacks everything you need to know about this idiom's origin, meaning, and use.

Round Peg Square Hole Meaning

The meaning of "Round peg square hole" applies to people or objects. In most cases, people use the phrase to describe someone who doesn't fit in with their surroundings. However, you could use the term in various situations where you're trying to remark against something odd that seems out of place.

You can use the phrase to describe others or yourself. For instance, you could use the term if you're at a party alone and don't know anyone there, making you feel awkward. The phrase could also refer to you or someone else feeling out-of-depth in your current situation, leading to uncertainty and a loss of confidence.

Round peg square hole also goes by the deviations of "round peg in a square hole," or the reverse "square peg in a round hole." Use can use the two interchangeably without losing the meaning of the phrase. Typically, the phrase applies more in conversation when talking about others than oneself.

Round Peg Square Hole Example Usage

"Look at Jill; she just can't fit in with the others. She acts like a round peg in a square hole."

"No matter how you try to get the data to fit the pattern, it won't correlate; it's like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole."

"Jim found himself ostracized from the group; he felt like a round peg in a square hole."

"I can't get this part to fit into the carburetor; it's like trying to squeeze a round peg into a square hole."

"This product doesn't belong in the brand range. It's like a round peg in a square hole."

Round Peg Square Hole Origin

"Round peg in a square hole" is an idiom first used by Sydney Smith. Smith used the phrase in his lectures at the Royal Institution during the early 1800s.

Sydney came up with the phrase after surmising that if a table surface had holes of different shapes, and people would try to drop appropriately-shaped blocks through these holes, someone would eventually try to fit a square peg in the round hole.

The expression dates back to the early 1800s, and it's still a popular expression today. The original term retained its form and meaning throughout the last five centuries.

Phrases Similar to Round Peg Square Hole

  • Two left feet.
  • Not a good fit.

Phrases Opposite to Round Peg Square Hole

  • Fits like a glove.
  • Slots right in.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Round peg square hole.
  • Round peg in a square hole.
  • Square peg in a round hole.

Ways People May Say Round Peg Square Hole Incorrectly

"Round peg square hole" is an idiom still in use today, but mainly with the older generations, youngsters might not understand what you mean. While you could use the phrase in a professional conversation, it's better to keep it to social use unless you know the other parties in the conversation.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Round Peg Square Hole

"Round peg square hole" suits use in social conversations when talking about someone's lack of ability to blend into their surroundings. You can use it to refer to someone's behavior or actions or how other people react around the person in question.

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