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From Middle English pinchen, from Anglo-Norman *pinchier (compare Old French pincer, pincier (to pinch, find fault)), from Vulgar Latin *pincāre, a nasalised variant of Vulgar Latin *piccāre (to pick, pierce), from Frankish *pikkōn, from Proto-Germanic *pikōną, *pukaną (to pick, peck, prick, knock), from Proto-Indo-European *beu-, *bu- (to make a dull sound). Cognate with Old English pȳcan, pician (to pick, pluck), Old Norse pikka (to prick, peck), Middle Dutch and Middle Low German picken (to pick, peck, pierce), German pochen (to knock, pound, thump). More at pick.



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 steal, usually of something almost trivial or inconsequential.
    Someone has pinched my handkerchief!
    • 2012 May 13, Alistair Magowan, “Sunderland 0-1 Man Utd”, BBC Sport:
      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.
  3. (slang) To arrest or capture.
  4. (horticulture) To cut shoots or buds of a plant in order to shape the plant, or to improve its yield.
  5. (nautical) To sail so close-hauled that the sails begin to flutter.
  6. (hunting) To take hold; to grip, as a dog does.
  7. (obsolete) To be niggardly or covetous.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Gower to this entry?)
    • Franklin
      the wretch whom avarice bids to pinch and spare
  8. To seize; to grip; to bite; said of animals.
    • Chapman
      He [the hound] pinched and pulled her down.
  9. (figuratively) To cramp; to straiten; to oppress; to starve.
    to be pinched for money
    • Sir Walter Raleigh
      want of room [] pinching a whole nation
  10. To move, as a railroad car, by prying the wheels with a pinch.



pinch (plural pinches)

  1. The action of squeezing a small amount of a person's skin and flesh, making it hurt.
  2. A small amount of powder or granules, such that the amount could be held between fingertip and thumb tip.
  3. An awkward situation of some kind (especially money or social) which is difficult to escape.
    • 1955, Rex Stout, "Die Like a Dog", in Three Witnesses, October 1994 Bantam edition, ISBN 0553249592, 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.
  4. An organic herbal smoke additive.

Derived terms[edit]