\ˈpinch \
pinched; pinching; pinches

Definition of pinch 

(Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : 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

2a : to subject to strict economy or want : straiten

b : to restrain or limit narrowly : constrict

3a : steal

b : arrest

4 : to sail too close to the wind

intransitive verb

2 : to be miserly or closefisted

3 : to press painfully

4 : narrow, taper the road pinched down to a trail— Cecelia Holland

pinch pennies

: to practice strict economy



Definition of pinch (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : a critical juncture : emergency

c : deficit

2a : 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 : a marked thinning of a vein or bed

4a : theft

b : a police raid also : arrest



Definition of pinch (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : substitute pinch runner

2 : hit by a pinch hitter a pinch homer

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Choose the Right Synonym for pinch


juncture, exigency, emergency, contingency, pinch, strait (or 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 strait, now commonly 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

Examples of pinch in a Sentence


My little brother is always trying to pinch me. He pinched her cheeks and told her how cute she was. Pinch together the edges of the dough. He pinched the top of his nose to stop the bleeding and leaned forward. He pinched off the top of the shoots. She pinched back the new growth. These new shoes are pinching my toes. I pinched my fingers in the door. By pinching and scraping, she managed to save enough money to buy a new car.


the pinch of my favorite sweater really bugged me! an innocent person caught up in a city-wide pinch of drug dealers


A pinch homer won the game.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Abreu is set to return to the White Sox lineup Wednesday after he was supposed to take Tuesday night off but pinch-hit in the 11th inning. Phil Thompson,, "Jose Abreu back in White Sox lineup as Dylan Covey starts against Reds," 4 July 2018 Mattingly sent up Dan Straily, one of the worst-hitting pitchers on the Marlins, to pinch-hit in the 16th. Clark Spencer, miamiherald, "Marlins play into the Fourth of July, lose 16-inning marathon to Rays," 4 July 2018 He was relegated to pinch-hitting duty in three other games. Mark Rosner, Indianapolis Star, "IU baseball loses in NCAA tournament because of one big inning," 1 June 2018 Reynolds hit 30 homers and drove in 97 runs last season for the Rockies, but Matt Adams' hot bat will likely limit him to mostly pinch-hitting duties or occasional starts vs. left-handers until Zimmerman returns. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "Fantasy baseball waiver wire: Dustin Fowler personifies patience," 12 May 2018 The elastic panel at the lower back keeps the waist from bagging or pinching, and all those seams across the hips accommodate curves. Kelly Bastone, Outside Online, "Europeans Know How to Make Women's Mountain Bike Shorts," 29 June 2018 Use your fingers to pinch and seal the lid, working your way around so there is no visible seam. Bonnie S. Benwick, charlotteobserver, "Spicy, smoky, cheesy, melty burgers — on the inside," 19 June 2018 But ratcheting up the level of tariffs would eventually start to pinch consumers. New York Times, "Trump Threatens Tariffs on $200 Billion in China Goods, Escalating Fight," 18 June 2018 Trump’s transparently vindictive assault on Bezos’ interests is reminiscent of the way President Richard Nixon tried to pinch owners of news organizations. John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle, "Last Word: Trump’s vindictive move against Amazon," 18 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Add the onion and a small pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Adam Ried,, "Recipes: Switch it up with lamb burgers instead of beef," 13 July 2018 The pinch of mid-level players is really a confluence of events. Rob Mahoney,, "NBA Free Agency: The Thought Behind the One-Year Deal Trend," 12 July 2018 The work comes at a time when Indianapolis drivers are already feeling the pinch with a section of Interstate 65 closed Downtown. Ethan May, Indianapolis Star, "Indianapolis road construction: Section of I-465 to undergo overnight concrete patching during weekends," 11 July 2018 Add toasted cumin, cilantro, mint leaves, jalapeño, sugar and a generous pinch of salt and continue blending for another 2-3 minutes until no chunks or whole leaves remain. San Antonio Express-News, "Recipe: Silky Sweet Corn Soup with Indian Coconut-Cilantro Chutney," 11 July 2018 Combine with the sumac, a splash of olive oil and a small pinch of salt. Sarah Fritsche,, "Recipe: Tawla’s Fattoush," 3 July 2018 Add the grapefruit juice, lemongrass syrup, juice from the lime wedges and a pinch of sea salt. Kellie Hwang, azcentral, "Mocktail recipes: How to make tasty non-alcoholic drinks for your Fourth of July party," 3 July 2018 Stephan Mart walked and was pinch-run for by Jonathan Xuereb. Gary Curreri,, "Boca Raton Senior All-Stars rally to district title in best-of-3 series," 30 June 2018 Cut the steak into thick slices, season with black pepper and an additional pinch of salt. Nick Kindelsperger, charlotteobserver, "Can you cook a great steak indoors? Yes, if you learn this trick," 26 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pinch.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pinch


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1912, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pinch


Middle English, from Anglo-French *pincher, pincer

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Learn More about pinch

Statistics for pinch

Last Updated

7 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pinch

The first known use of pinch was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for pinch



English Language Learners Definition of pinch

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: 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



English Language Learners Definition of pinch (Entry 2 of 3)

: the act of pinching someone or something

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



English Language Learners Definition of pinch (Entry 3 of 3)

: used as a substitute for another player

: made by a pinch hitter


\ˈpinch \
pinched; pinching

Kids Definition of pinch

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to squeeze between the finger and thumb or between the jaws of an instrument My aunt pinched my cheeks.

2 : to squeeze painfully I pinched my finger in a door.

3 : to break off by squeezing with the thumb and fingers Pinch off a bit of dough.

4 : to cause to look thin or shrunken … I saw Dad run toward me with his face all pinched with anger.— Jack Gantos, Joey Pigza Loses Control

pinch pennies

: to be thrifty or stingy



Kids Definition of pinch (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a time of emergency He always helps out in a pinch.

2 : an act of squeezing skin between the thumb and fingers

3 : as much as may be picked up between the finger and the thumb : a very small amount a pinch of salt

\ˈpinch \

Medical Definition of pinch 

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

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Comments on pinch

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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