A cubby is a small space which can be used for storage. Cubbies come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from small rooms, to arrays of boxes which can be used to store interoffice documents. Some people use cubbies for storage and organizing, and they are a common feature in offices, mailrooms, and other locations where large volumes of objects are sorted.
The term “cubby” originally referred to a small cabin, with this usage of the word appearing around the 1600s. By 1825, people were talking about cubbyholes, as in small boxes used to store mail and various household supplies, and this word was often shortened to “cubby.” Although we can determine when people first started to use the word, the origins are a bit of a mystery, and some people have suggested that it may be derived from a child's nonsense word.
In the sense of a box for storage, a cubby is often part of an array of boxes which are built in place or built into a large and heavy piece of furniture. In a location like a mail room, cubbies are open on two sides, allowing staff to insert mail on one side, while people retrieve it on the other. Cubbies can also be enclosed on five sides, with a single opening provided for access to the cubby. This style of cubby is common in offices and schools, with children storing lunches, backpacks, shoes, and other possessions in their cubbies so that the classroom does not become cluttered.
Usually, a cubby is open and unsecured. For schoolchildren, private cubbies are often the introduction to the honor system, with children learning that the contents of other cubbies should be left alone, no matter how tempting they appear. The same honor system is often used in gyms, spas, and other locations in which people want a place to store personal items while they work out, take a hot tub, or engage in other activities. In some regions, the tradition of using cubbies has been replaced with lockers for greater security.
Cubbies can also be very useful in home organizing. A desk with cubbyholes, for example, can be used to sort bills and other correspondence. A cubby system can also be used in the kitchen to sort kitchen utensils, food, and so forth, with many mixed households assigning specific cubbies to particular roommates to make it easier to keep possessions separate. Some people also use cubbies in entryways and halls so that family members have a place to stick shoes, backpacks, purses, and other belongings.