Definition of pinch in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /pɪn(t)ʃ/


[with object]
1Grip (something, typically a person’s flesh) tightly and sharply between finger and thumb: she pinched his cheek
More example sentences
  • She sighed and rumbled softly while I showed her how to rub and pinch flesh between the fingers, how to read the muscles.
  • He leaned over again and trailed his lips down Edge's neck, his fingers now gently pinching the sensitive flesh.
  • His hand clamped around her neck loosely but his thumb was pinching her skin against the wall.
nip, tweak, squeeze, compress, grasp
1.1(Of a shoe) hurt (a foot) by being too tight: Mrs Grandison’s pointed, Italian-style shoes were already beginning to pinch her feet [no object]: if your shoes pinch, take them off
More example sentences
  • There's no point in buying shoes that will pinch your toes and cramp your feet all day long.
  • I look over at the closet and scan the rows of shoes there, the shoes that hurt my feet, pinch my toes, make me wobble and have to hold on to Tony for balance and support.
  • She descended the stairs carefully because the shoes were pinching her feet.
hurt, cause pain to, pain;
squeeze, crush, cramp, chafe, confine;
be uncomfortable, cause discomfort, be painful
1.2Compress (one’s lips), especially from worry or tension: Aunt Rose pinched her thin lips together
More example sentences
  • If he's real persistent, even with the noseband on, you can pinch his lip when he tries to put his mouth on you.
  • He was pinching his bottom lip with frustration by this point.
  • Dezra ordered stubbornly, pinching her lips at him and glowering from beneath the big hat.
2Move one’s finger and thumb apart or bring them together on (a touchscreen) in order to zoom into or out of an image, activate a function, etc. to explore in more detail just pinch the screen [no object]: you can pinch on the screen and all the open apps will appear
More example sentences
  • In some cases, pinching the screen causes surrounding items to jump around.
  • Pinching a home screen took us to another screen where we could change the default home screen.
  • The Camera allows 4x digital Zoom - you have to pinch the screen to use the feature.
3 informal Steal or take without permission: he pinched a handful of sweets
More example sentences
  • BOB is an angry man - he has lost his girlfriend and now the culprit who stole her has pinched his lead role in the new play.
  • He said he has been left ‘devastated and heartbroken’ after opportunist thieves pinched his bike while he went into the store to get a Mars Bar, leaving the bike with a friend.
  • Joshua, of Earlswood Walk, Great Lever, watched in horror from a kitchen window as a thief pinched the bike and cycled off.
steal, thieve, rob, take, snatch, pilfer, purloin, loot, rifle, abscond with, carry off;
embezzle, misappropriate
informal walk off/away with, run away/off with, swipe, nab, rip off, lift, ‘liberate’, ‘borrow’, filch
British informal nick, half-inch, whip, knock off, nobble, bone
North American informal heist, glom
Australian informal snavel
West Indian informal tief
archaic crib, hook
3.1British Arrest (someone): I was pinched for dangerous driving last month
More example sentences
  • He wanted the police to portray themselves as the rabbit, but a day later, he's pinched.
  • When the cops pinched him, he gave them a fake name.
arrest, take into custody, apprehend, take prisoner, detain, seize, capture, catch, lay hold of, take in, haul in
informal collar, nab, pick up, run/pull in, nick, bust, nail, do, feel someone's collar
4 [no object] Live in a frugal way: if I scraped and pinched a bit, I might manage
More example sentences
  • It's said that Chicago Bears founder George Halas pinched pennies so tightly that his thumbprint looked like the profile of Abraham Lincoln.
economize, be economical, scrimp, scrimp and save, cut corners, reduce wastage, skimp, stint, be sparing, be frugal, cut back, tighten one's belt, draw in one's horns, retrench, cut expenditure, cut one's coat according to one's cloth;
be niggardly, be tight-fisted, be close
informal be stingy, be tight, be mingy
5Remove (buds or leaves) from a plant to encourage bushy growth: pinch out tips of shoots regularly
More example sentences
  • This combination of mulch and pinching leaves will help keep soil-borne disease pathogens from splashing up onto plant leaves during rain storms or watering.
  • This is also the time to remove your plants and trim or pinch the old growth and all yellowing leaves off.
  • Remove all rootstock suckers or low-growing branches, and pinch the main stems to keep the height manageable.
6 Sailing Sail (a boat) so close to the wind that the sails begin to lose power.


1An act of pinching someone: he gave her a gentle pinch
More example sentences
  • Try strokes, caresses, nips, pinches and gentle scratches.
  • Number of gropes, slaps, pinches and otherwise unwanted sexual attention endured: 0.
  • What looks like an earlobe pinch is a pressure point submission; I had heard of its use in law enforcement but hadn't seen it until now.
nip, tweak, squeeze
1.1An amount of an ingredient that can be held between fingers and thumb: add a pinch of salt
More example sentences
  • The only added ingredients are a pinch of salt and, on the French fries, canola or soybean oil and citric acid.
  • For the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese until they are fluffy and then add the remaining ingredients with a pinch of salt until combined.
  • While the pinch of something can as well, in general, a cook understands that a pinch is a modest amount, less than a teaspoon.
small quantity, bit, touch, dash, spot, trace, soupçon, speck, taste
informal smidgen, smidge, tad
2 Baseball A critical point in the game.
Example sentences
  • Carbo hit his second pinch homer of the series, and the game was tied 6-6.
  • Carbo offered him his best chance of coming through in the pinch, just as he had done with a home run in Game Three.
  • Boston's Bernie Carbo had fled the battle with a two-out, three-run eighth-inning pinch homer.



at (or North American in) a pinch

If absolutely necessary: the rear will accommodate two adults or three smaller people at a pinch
More example sentences
  • If there was a unique and complex weapon that became necessary to be wield in a pinch, she was required be more skilled in it than anyone before.
  • So, now that I work for Don Graham, I regard him as family, welcome to borrow my car or $50 whenever he's in a pinch.
  • Saudi Arabia produces 9 million barrels a day, and can do 11 in a pinch.
if necessary, with difficulty, in case of necessity, if need be, in an emergency, just possibly;
North American  in a pinch
British informal at a push

feel the pinch

Experience hardship, especially financial: staff were beginning to feel the pinch as the dispute entered its third week
More example sentences
  • The position of the Coptic communities is becoming more insecure and they are the first to feel the pinch of hardship.
  • Though obviously a different prospect to a large hotel and dependent of passing trade rather than the tour buses or large bookings, many guest houses around Kerry are also beginning to feel the pinch.
  • Both men are septuagenarians who have felt the pinch of ageism in a business that often dismisses extensive experience and talent as irrelevant.
suffer hardship, have less money, be short of money, be poor, be impoverished, suffer poverty, suffer adversity

pinch oneself

Take a moment to convince oneself that a good or pleasurable situation is real: sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize it isn’t all a dream
More example sentences
  • The more Collins talks, the more you have to pinch yourself.
  • Roger East occasionally has to pinch himself to make sure he isn't dreaming.
  • I had to pinch myself in case I was dreaming.


Middle English (as a verb): from an Old Northern French variant of Old French pincier 'to pinch'.

  • Pinch is from a variant of Old French pincier ‘to pinch’, which is the source of pincers (Middle English). Use of the word to mean ‘hardship’ dates from the early 17th century (Shakespeare King Lear: ‘Necessity's sharp pinch’); this sense found in the phrase feel the pinch. The transferred slang sense ‘steal’ dates from the mid 17th century.

Words that rhyme with pinch

cinch, clinch, finch, flinch, inch, lynch, Minch, squinch, winch

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pinch

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.