square peg in a round hole

R - S

square peg in a round hole
also, round peg in a square hole

Meaning | Synonyms

  • a person who doesn’t fit into societies norm
  • finding yourself in a situation that doesn’t suit you
  • trying to do something that you don’t know how to do
  • someone not capable of the job or task they are doing
  • being out of your depth or comfort zone in a situation

Example Sentences

  1. How he got the job I will never know. He’s like a square peg in a round hole.
  2. You are trying to get a square peg into a round hole, let me do it instead.
  3. That lifestyle really doesn’t suit Sally at all; she’s like a square peg in a round hole.
  4. I went to the party for a little while, but I felt like a round peg in a square hole. There was nobody I knew there.


It is a metaphor once used by Sydney Smith in a lecture at the Royal Institution in the early 1800s. He surmised that if there were many holes of different shapes on a table surface, and people tried to fit different shaped pegs into those holes, very rarely would the correct shaped peg get put into the right shaped hole.

This dates back to the 1800s and we would use it as an expression to explain that something or someone isn’t suitable for a situation or doesn’t fit in. It can be that they don’t look right in your opinion or aren’t suitable or capable in some way of doing what is expected of them.

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