Dictionary.com
definitions
  • synonyms

pinch

[pinch]
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object)
  1. to squeeze or compress between the finger and thumb, the teeth, the jaws of an instrument, or the like.
  2. to constrict or squeeze painfully, as a tight shoe does.
  3. to cramp within narrow bounds or quarters: The crowd pinched him into a corner.
  4. to render (the face, body, etc.) unnaturally constricted or drawn, as pain or distress does: Years of hardship had pinched her countenance beyond recognition.
  5. to affect with sharp discomfort or distress, as cold, hunger, or need does.
  6. to straiten in means or circumstances: The depression pinched them.
  7. to stint (a person, family, etc.) in allowance of money, food, or the like: They were severely pinched by the drought.
  8. to hamper or inconvenience by the lack of something specified: The builders were pinched by the shortage of good lumber.
  9. to stint the supply or amount of (a thing).
  10. to put a pinch or small quantity of (a powder, spice, etc.) into something.
  11. to roll or slide (a heavy object) with leverage from a pinch bar.
  12. Slang.
    1. to steal.
    2. to arrest.
  13. Digital Technology. to move two or more fingers toward or away from each other on (a touchscreen) in order to execute a command (often followed by in or out): Zoom in by pinching the screen.
  14. Horticulture. to remove or shorten (buds or shoots) in order to produce a certain shape of the plant, improve the quality of the bloom or fruit, or increase the development of buds (often followed by out, off, or back).
  15. Nautical. to sail (a ship) so close to the wind that the sails shake slightly and the speed is reduced.
  16. Horse Racing, British. to press (a horse) to the point of exhaustion.
verb (used without object)
  1. to exert a sharp or painful constricting force: This shoe pinches.
  2. to cause sharp discomfort or distress: Their stomachs were pinched with hunger.
  3. to economize unduly; stint oneself: They pinched and scraped for years to save money for a car.
  4. Digital Technology. to move the fingers toward or away from each other on a touchscreen (often followed by in or out): Pinching in will zoom in, and pinching out will zoom out.
  5. Mining. (of a vein of ore or the like)
    1. to diminish.
    2. to diminish to nothing (sometimes followed by out).
  6. Nautical. to trim a sail too flat when sailing to windward.
noun
  1. the act of pinching; nip; squeeze.
  2. as much of anything as can be taken up between the finger and thumb: a pinch of salt.
  3. a very small quantity of anything: a pinch of pungent wit.
  4. sharp or painful stress, as of hunger, need, or any trying circumstances: the pinch of conscience; to feel the pinch of poverty.
  5. a situation or time of special stress, especially an emergency: A friend is someone who will stand by you in a pinch.
  6. pinch bar.
  7. Slang. a raid or an arrest.
  8. Slang. a theft.
  9. Digital Technology. an act or instance of pinching a touchscreen.
Idioms
  1. pinch pennies, to stint on or be frugal or economical with expenditures; economize: I'll have to pinch pennies if I'm going to get through school.
  2. with a pinch of salt. salt1(def 24).Also with a grain of salt.

Origin of pinch

1250–1300; Middle English pinchen < Anglo-French *pinchier (equivalent to Old French pincier, Spanish pinchar) < Vulgar Latin *pīnctiāre, variant of *pūnctiāre to prick (cf. pique1)
Related formspinch·a·ble, adjectiveun·pinched, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pinch

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Gray Peter's heart was never in doubt, but what would Sally's courage be in a pinch?

  • The pinch was bound to come in a town where every man wore his gun.

  • In a pinch they would obey you nearly as well as they obey me.

  • I presume half our people, on a pinch, could have brought the Sterling in.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • In a word, I had too much, though I could have carried a good deal more, on a pinch.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper


British Dictionary definitions for pinch

pinch

verb
  1. to press (something, esp flesh) tightly between two surfaces, esp between a finger and the thumbSee nip 1
  2. to confine, squeeze, or painfully press (toes, fingers, etc) because of lack of spacethese shoes pinch
  3. (tr) to cause stinging pain tothe cold pinched his face
  4. (tr) to make thin or drawn-looking, as from grief, lack of food, etc
  5. (usually foll by on) to provide (oneself or another person) with meagre allowances, amounts, etc
  6. pinch pennies to live frugally because of meanness or to economize
  7. (tr) nautical to sail (a sailing vessel) so close to the wind that her sails begin to luff and she loses way
  8. (intr sometimes foll by out) (of a vein of ore) to narrow or peter out
  9. (usually foll by off, out, or back) to remove the tips of (buds, shoots, etc) to correct or encourage growth
  10. (tr) informal to steal or take without asking
  11. (tr) informal to arrest
noun
  1. a squeeze or sustained nip
  2. the quantity of a substance, such as salt, that can be taken between a thumb and finger
  3. a very small quantity
  4. a critical situation; predicament; emergencyif it comes to the pinch we'll have to manage
  5. the pinch sharp, painful, or extreme stress, need, etcfeeling the pinch of poverty
  6. See pinch bar
  7. slang a robbery
  8. slang a police raid or arrest
  9. at a pinch if absolutely necessary
  10. with a pinch of salt or with a grain of salt without wholly believing; sceptically

Word Origin

C16: probably from Old Norman French pinchier (unattested); related to Old French pincier to pinch; compare Late Latin punctiāre to prick
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for pinch

v.

early 13c., from Old North French *pinchier "to pinch, squeeze, nip; steal" (Old French pincier, Modern French pincer), of uncertain origin, possibly from Vulgar Latin *punctiare "to pierce," which might be a blend of Latin punctum "point" + *piccare "to pierce." Meaning "to steal" in English is from 1650s. Sense of "to be stingy" is recorded from early 14c. Related: Pinched; pinching.

n.

late 15c., "critical juncture" (as in baseball pinch hitter, attested from 1912), from pinch (v.). This figurative sense is attested earlier than the literal sense of "act of pinching" (1590s) or that of "small quantity" (as much as can be pinched between a thumb and finger), which is from 1580s. There is a use of the noun from mid-15c. apparently meaning "fold or pleat of fabric."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with pinch

pinch

In addition to the idioms beginning with pinch

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.