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From Middle English pinchen, from Old Northern French *pinchier (compare Old French pincier, pincer (to pinch)), a word of uncertain origin, possibly from Vulgar Latin *pinciāre (to puncture, pinch), from a merger of *punctiāre (to puncture, sting), from Latin punctiō (a puncture, prick) and *piccāre (to strike, sting), from Frankish *pikkōn, from Proto-Germanic *pikkōną (to pick, peck, prick). More at point, pick and pitch.


  • IPA(key): /pɪnt͡ʃ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪntʃ


pinch (third-person singular simple present pinches, present participle pinching, simple past and past participle pinched)

  1. To squeeze a small amount of a person's skin and flesh, making it hurt.
    The children were scolded for pinching each other.
    This shoe pinches my foot.
  2. To squeeze between the thumb and forefinger.
    • 2014, Harlan Ellison, Paingod and Other Delusions, →ISBN:
      He took the plate in his hand, holding it between thumb and forefinger at one corner, letting it hang down. With the other hand he pinched it at the opposite corner, pressing thumb and forefinger together tightly.
  3. To squeeze between two objects.
    • 2012, Supriyo Bandyopadhyay, Physics of Nanostructured Solid State Devices, →ISBN, page 446:
      Since the resistance of the channel is inversely proportional to its width, the most resistive region is the one pinched between the gates where they come closest to each other.
  4. (intransitive) Of clothing, to be uncomfortably tight in specific spots.
    • 1972, “Thick As A Brick”, Ian Anderson (lyrics), performed by Jethro Tull:
      With their jock-straps pinching, they slouch to attention
      While queueing for sarnies at the office canteen.
  5. (slang, transitive) To steal, usually something inconsequential.
    Someone has pinched my handkerchief!
    • 1966, Thomas Pynchon, chapter 3, in The Crying of Lot 49, New York: Bantam Books, published 1976, →ISBN, page 37:
      “Hey, blokes,” yelled Dean or perhaps Serge, “let's pinch a boat.”
    • 2012 May 13, Alistair Magowan, “Sunderland 0-1 Man Utd”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Then, as the Sunderland fans' cheers bellowed around the stadium, United's title bid was over when it became apparent City had pinched a last-gasp winner to seal their first title in 44 years.
  6. (slang, transitive) To arrest or capture.
  7. (horticulture) To cut shoots or buds of a plant in order to shape the plant, or to improve its yield.
  8. (nautical) To sail so close-hauled that the sails begin to flutter.
  9. (hunting) To take hold; to grip, as a dog does.
  10. (obsolete, intransitive) To be stingy or covetous; to live sparingly.
  11. (of animals) To seize; to grip; to bite.
  12. (figurative) To cramp; to straiten; to oppress; to starve.
    to be pinched for money
    • c. 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Winters Tale”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene i]:
      Camillo was his helpe in this, his Pandar:
      There is a Plot against my Life, my Crowne;
      All's true that is mistrusted: that false Villaine,
      Whom I employ'd, was pre-employ'd by him:
      He ha's discouer'd my Designe, and I
      Remaine a pinch'd Thing;
    • c. 1610?, Walter Raleigh, A Discourse of War:
      want of room [] which pincheth the whole nation
    • 1888, William Morris, Signs of Change [] [2], London: Reeves and Turner, page 105:
      [] the well-to-do working men did not hope, since they were not pinched and had no means of learning their degraded position []
    • 1902, William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Lecture 2:
      The Christian also spurns the pinched and mumping sick-room attitude, and the lives of saints are full of a kind of callousness to diseased conditions of body which probably no other human records show.
  13. To move, as a railroad car, by prying the wheels with a pinch.
  14. (obsolete) To complain or find fault.
    • 1809, Alexander Chalmers ed. The Works of the English Poets, from Cahucer to Cowper, Vol. 1, modern rendering of poem imputed to Geoffrey Chaucer, "A Ballad which Chaucer made in Praise or rather Dispraise of Women for their Doubleness":
      Therefore who so them accuse
      Of any double entencion,
      To speake, rowne, other to muse,
      To pinch at their condicion,
      All is but false collusion,
      I dare rightwell the sothe express,
      They have no better protection,
      But shrowd them vnder doubleness.

Derived terms[edit]



English Wikipedia has an article on:

pinch (plural pinches)

  1. The action of squeezing a small amount of a person's skin and flesh, making it hurt.
  2. A close compression of anything with the fingers.
    I gave the leather of the sofa a pinch, gauging the texture.
  3. A small amount of powder or granules, such that the amount could be held between fingertip and thumb tip.
    Mix about four cups of white flour with a pinch of salt.
  4. An awkward situation of some kind (especially money or social) which is difficult to escape.
    • c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. [] The First Part [], 2nd edition, part 1, London: [] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, [], published 1592, →OCLC; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire, London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, Act II, scene i:
      And wel his merits ſhew him to be made
      His Fortunes maiſter, and the king of men.
      That could perſwade at ſuch a ſodaine pinch,
      With reaſons of his valour and his life,
      A thouſand ſworne and ouer-matching foes:
    • 1955 October, Rex Stout, “Die Like a Dog”, in Three Witnesses, Bantam, published 1994, →ISBN, page 171:
      It took nerve and muscle both to carry the body out and down the stairs to the lower hall, but he damn well had to get it out of his place and away from his door, and any of those four could have done it in a pinch, and it sure was a pinch.
  5. A metal bar used as a lever for lifting weights, rolling wheels, etc.
  6. An organic herbal smoke additive.
  7. (physics) A magnetic compression of an electrically-conducting filament.
  8. The narrow part connecting the two bulbs of an hourglass.
    • 2001, Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time:
      It looked like an hourglass, but all those little glittering shapes tumbling through the pinch were seconds.
  9. (slang) An arrest.

Derived terms[edit]


  • Japanese: ピンチ (pinchi)