Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb \ˈpinch\

Simple Definition of pinch

  • : to squeeze (someone's skin) between your thumb and finger often in a painful way

  • : to squeeze or press (something) together with your thumb and finger

  • : to remove (part of a plant) by squeezing with your thumb and finger

Full Definition of pinch

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to squeeze between the finger and thumb or between the jaws of an instrument b :  to prune the tip of (a plant or shoot) usually to induce branching c :  to squeeze or compress painfully d :  to cause physical or mental pain to e (1) :  to cause to appear thin, haggard, or shrunken (2) :  to cause to shrivel or wither

  3. 2 a :  to subject to strict economy or want :  straiten b :  to restrain or limit narrowly :  constrict

  4. 3 a :  steal b :  arrest

  5. 4 :  to sail too close to the wind

  6. intransitive verb
  7. 1 :  compress, squeeze

  8. 2 :  to be miserly or closefisted

  9. 3 :  to press painfully

  10. 4 :  narrow, taper <the road pinched down to a trail — Cecelia Holland>

pinch pennies
  1. :  to practice strict economy

Examples of pinch

  1. My little brother is always trying to pinch me.

  2. He pinched her cheeks and told her how cute she was.

  3. Pinch together the edges of the dough.

  4. He pinched the top of his nose to stop the bleeding and leaned forward.

  5. He pinched off the top of the shoots.

  6. She pinched back the new growth.

  7. These new shoes are pinching my toes.

  8. I pinched my fingers in the door.

  9. By pinching and scraping, she managed to save enough money to buy a new car.

Origin of pinch

Middle English, from Anglo-French *pincher, pincer

First Known Use: 14th century

Rhymes with pinch




Simple Definition of pinch

  • : the act of pinching someone or something

  • : the amount of something that can be held between your finger and thumb

Full Definition of pinch

  1. 1 a :  a critical juncture :  emergency b (1) :  pressure, stress (2) :  hardship, privation c :  deficit

  2. 2 a :  an act of pinching :  squeeze b :  as much as may be taken between the finger and thumb <a pinch of snuff> c :  a very small amount

  3. 3 :  a marked thinning of a vein or bed

  4. 4 a :  theft b :  a police raid; also :  arrest

Examples of pinch

  1. <the pinch of my favorite sweater really bugged me!>

  2. <an innocent person caught up in a city-wide pinch of drug dealers>

15th Century

First Known Use of pinch

15th century

Synonym Discussion of pinch

juncture, exigency, emergency, contingency, pinch, straits, crisis mean a critical or crucial time or state of affairs. juncture stresses the significant concurrence or convergence of events <an important juncture in our country's history>. exigency stresses the pressure of restrictions or urgency of demands created by a special situation <provide for exigencies>. emergency applies to a sudden unforeseen situation requiring prompt action to avoid disaster <the presence of mind needed to deal with emergencies>. contingency implies an emergency or exigency that is regarded as possible but uncertain of occurrence <contingency plans>. pinch implies urgency or pressure for action to a less intense degree than exigency or emergency <come through in a pinch>. straits applies to a troublesome situation from which escape is extremely difficult <in dire straits>. crisis applies to a juncture whose outcome will make a decisive difference <a crisis of confidence>.




Simple Definition of pinch

  • : used as a substitute for another player

  • : made by a pinch hitter

Full Definition of pinch

  1. 1 :  substitute <pinch runner>

  2. 2 :  hit by a pinch hitter <a pinch homer>

Examples of pinch

  1. A pinch homer won the game.


First Known Use of pinch


Medical Dictionary


transitive verb \ˈpinch\

Medical Definition of pinch

  1. :  to squeeze or compress (a part of the body) usually in a painful or discomforting way <a pinched nerve caused by entrapment>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up pinch? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 13, 2016

a trying or distressing experience

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

196.5 pounds 100 pounds 2.2 pounds 16.96 pounds
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.