\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

The 9-inch touch screen can be flicked and pinched just like a smartphone’s display. Jeff Yip, Houston Chronicle, "Toyota’s all-new 2019 Avalon hits dealerships in May," 28 Apr. 2018 It's been two years since Evertonians were pinching themselves as news broke that their financial problems were over due to a billionaire takeover., "FanView: Anniversary of Moshiri Takeover Shows Contrast in Everton Success On & Off the Pitch," 27 Feb. 2018 Make sauce: In a food processor, pulse roasted red peppers, parsley, roasted salted almonds, and pinch salt until almost smooth. Woman's Day Kitchen, Woman's Day, "Crispy Chickpea and Kale Bowl," 12 Jan. 2018 The Rockies sent Erik Kratz to the on-deck circle to pinch-hit for Jorge Lopez. Clark Spencer, miamiherald, "Marlins celebrate another extra-inning win on walk-off hit in 12th," 12 July 2018 On a day immediately following 10- and 16-inning games, the Marlins could have opted to push Ureña deeper into the game to save their bullpen more but instead Mattingly pinch-hit Miguel Rojas for Ureña in the bottom of the fifth inning. Matthew Defranks,, "A Closer Look: Miami Marlins 3, Tampa Bay Rays 0," 4 July 2018 With two outs in the top of the 10th inning and two runners on base, Joaquin Arias, a scrap-heap pickup who had entered the game earlier to pinch-hit, knocked a ground ball toward Scott Rolen, the Cincinnati Reds’ third baseman. Ben Rowen, The Atlantic, "Finding the Formula for Team Chemistry," 15 June 2018 After a 14-pitch, perfect eighth, the ninth would have belonged to Hand, too, had Green not called on Christian Villanueva to pinch-hit for him during a four-run rally. Jeff Sanders,, "First pitch: Back of bullpen prepared for anything," 30 May 2018 The Centers for Disease Control also prefers scraping the stinger with a fingernail over pinching it out. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "This Is the Only Thing You Should Do If a Bee Stings You," 6 June 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In a large saucepan, cover the whole potatoes with cold water and add a generous pinch of salt. Karoline Boehm Goodnick,, "Recipe: On the Fourth, salmon with herb oil and smashed whole potatoes are on the grill," 2 July 2018 When the onions are ready, add the cauliflower to the pot, add another healthy pinch of salt and enough water to come halfway up the cauliflower in the pot. Sara Franklin, charlotteobserver, "No courses, no assigned seats, no-hassle dinner party," 19 June 2018 Add a pinch or two of authoritarian control, and artists are quick to whittle wit into barbs. Lee Lawrence, WSJ, "‘Unexpected Smiles: Seven Types of Humor in Japanese Paintings’ Review: Elegance That Encourages Laughter," 2 June 2018 Add a healthy pinch of salt and a generous handful of shredded Parmesan cheese. Paula Forbes, GQ, "How to Make Pesto, the Sauce of the Summer for Lazy People Everywhere," 14 May 2018 Place in a large bowl, add a good pinch of salt, and mix together gently with a metal spoon. San Antonio Express-News, "Recipe: Don Ceviche," 25 Apr. 2018 About 10 minutes before sweet potatoes are done, pour just enough water to cover green beans into a skillet or pot; add a pinch or two of salt if desired. Daniel Neman, sacbee, "Spread joy: Cook with peanut butter | The Sacramento Bee," 3 Apr. 2018 To blister the tomatoes: heat a pan on high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil, the tomatoes (do not overfill the pan) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Nancy Miller, The Courier-Journal, "He never gets tired of the Hot Brown, but chef at The Brown Hotel is always looking ahead," 20 Mar. 2018 Cayla raises her eyebrows, and Michael adds another pinch. Lynn Ischay,, "Hamantaschen adds sweetness to Purim celebrations (photos)," 28 Feb. 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

2 Nov 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).


obstinately defiant of authority

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