Definition of pinch in English:



  • 1Grip (something, typically someone's flesh) tightly and sharply between finger and thumb.

    ‘she pinched his cheek’
    • ‘This time, he got up and grabbed his teacher's cheeks and pinched them.’
    • ‘He grabbed my right cheek and pinched it before going up the stairs.’
    • ‘I'm still in disbelief, and keep looking at the ring on my finger, pinching myself!’
    • ‘Evan noticed my reaction to his smile and pinched the skin behind my arm.’
    • ‘I pinched Elle's arm as discreetly as could, and got a nudge back.’
    • ‘Only a tiny whimper from pain as she fallen on her rump, the wood pinching her bare flesh.’
    • ‘He looked at me, and put a strong firm hand under my chin grabbing the skin with his fingers pinching it there.’
    • ‘If you can see it biting you, you simply pinch the skin on either side of its proboscus, which means it can't extract it and fly away.’
    • ‘She shut them tightly and pinched herself, opening them she knew she wasn't dreaming.’
    • ‘The tongs pinch your skin and a gauge measures the hunk of flesh in millimeters.’
    • ‘Try pinching the skin near the itch between your thumb and forefinger through your clothing; this is less damaging than actual scratching.’
    • ‘He leaned over again and trailed his lips down Edge's neck, his fingers now gently pinching the sensitive flesh.’
    • ‘She looked at him blankly until her god sister pinched her arm.’
    • ‘I begin to mutter something along those lines and begin pinching myself - just trying to wake up.’
    • ‘If the skin is crushed, or very tightly pinched or squeezed, a blood blister may form.’
    • ‘His hand clamped around her neck loosely but his thumb was pinching her skin against the wall.’
    • ‘How much of the universe can you pinch between your thumb and finger?’
    • ‘Her friends encouraged her and Megan reached over to pinch the skin on the back of Rick's kneecap.’
    • ‘She sighed and rumbled softly while I showed her how to rub and pinch flesh between the fingers, how to read the muscles.’
    • ‘I pull him closer, pinching his scrawny bottom.’
    nip, tweak, squeeze, compress, grasp
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    1. 1.1(of a shoe) hurt (a foot) by being too tight.
      • ‘But lately it's pinched his toes and left unsightly blisters, and now he finds himself venturing off to New York to see if it can be refitted.’
      • ‘The knees ain't what they used to be; feet ache a bit now and then when shoes pinch; and the hips, well, they're okay I suppose.’
      • ‘She descended the stairs carefully because the shoes were pinching her feet.’
      • ‘‘They're pinching my toes already,’ She complained as she slipped them on.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He had been so used to his old boots that the new ones he had bought had pinched his feet beyond endurance.’
      • ‘Famous saying goes that ‘Only you yourself know whether your shoes pinch,’ but a new breed of shoe advisers would beg to differ with this line.’
      • ‘The obvious and the ordinary were shoes that pinched his feet.’
      • ‘There's no point in buying shoes that will pinch your toes and cramp your feet all day long.’
      • ‘I had gotten rid of my shoes, they were too small, and they were pinching at my feet.’
      • ‘Before the game, Trucks noticed that his spikes had shrunk and were pinching his feet.’
      • ‘She remembered walking rigidly up the stone steps in her white lace, with the stockings too tight and the white shoes pinching and the back of the dress itchy.’
      • ‘They were pinching my feet, so I took them off by the Dumpster.’
      • ‘No matter that pointy shoes pinch your toes something rotten (so I'm told), last year people were happy to suffer them in the name of fashion.’
      • ‘I made a quick mental note to never wear stilettos again as I turned and discovered the damned footwear pinching my toes together in quite an uncomfortable fashion.’
      hurt, cause pain to, pain
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    2. 1.2Compress (the lips), especially with worry or tension.
      ‘Aunt Rose pinched her thin lips together’
      • ‘Pellew pinched his lips together not sure what he wanted to say.’
      • ‘He pinched his lips together, and gave a side glance at his two officers.’
      • ‘Rebecca felt terribly guilty about hiding her relation to David, but she pinched her lips and said not a word.’
      • ‘His lips were pinched in anger, his hands fisted.’
      • ‘Dezra ordered stubbornly, pinching her lips at him and glowering from beneath the big hat.’
      • ‘I pushed him into a chair and tipped his head back, pinching his nose to stop the bleeding.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His lips were pinched and his hair looked more peppery than usual.’
      • ‘She pinched her lips together and concentrated on her work.’
      • ‘Asa pinched her lips in a grim line, meeting the strange man's cold green eyes.’
      • ‘I pinched my lips together in hopes of doing the same to my self, trying to pull my entire person together.’
      • ‘As Egewe watched, she pinched her lips with her thumb and forefinger, nervously stroking the thin skin of her lips.’
      • ‘He pinched his lips together as anger rose inside him.’
    3. 1.3Remove (a bud, leaves, etc.) to encourage bushy growth.
      • ‘I want to smell a new fragrance, pluck a cherry tomato, pinch a mint leaf, experience the significance of life with each step.’
      • ‘Plants were pinched back to four leaves after 1 week and then were managed as stock plants.’
      • ‘On tomatoes, pinch out all side shoots at leaf axils when they are about an inch long.’
      • ‘Inspect and groom plants weekly and pinch them lightly to shape.’
      • ‘This is also the time to remove your plants and trim or pinch the old growth and all yellowing leaves off.’
      • ‘If your plants are spindly, pinch out the top center stem.’
      • ‘If young plants are leggy, pinch off new growth to encourage bushiness.’
      • ‘Be sure to include enough plants in the combination to balance out the tallest specimens, then pinch and train the plants to encourage bushy growth.’
      • ‘To harvest the plant, simply pinch or cut the leaves off with a knife.’
      • ‘As indoor tomato plants grow taller, make sure they are properly staked and that the side shots are pinched out to encourage the plant to grow tall.’
      • ‘In summer, pinch out the top 2 inches of growing canes that are approximately 18 to 36 inches tall.’
      • ‘For bedding plants, pinch off only the first few buds as flower size is less important as mass display.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Remove all rootstock suckers or low-growing branches, and pinch the main stems to keep the height manageable.’
      • ‘To keep the plant bushy, pinch off the top few inches of new growth.’
      • ‘Once plants reach the top of the trellis, pinch out the growing point of the plant.’
      • ‘To encourage larger growth of the biggest blossoms, pinch out the smaller blossoms regularly.’
      • ‘As summer wears on, continue pinching stem tips often to delay flowering.’
      • ‘When plants reach about 12 inches tall, pinch out about an inch of top growth to encourage branching and more blooms.’
      • ‘The first summer, pinch the stem tips back two or three times to encourage strong branching.’
  • 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’
    • ‘It is actually very annoying to have to constantly adjust/pinch the screen.’
    • ‘Today's kids, who naturally "swipe" and "pinch" interactive screens and are more familiar with tablet screens than magazines, take to technology like fish to water.’
    • ‘There are many more ways to interact with modern smartphones, such as pinching or swiping the screen or shaking the whole phone.’
    • ‘Pinching the home screen lets you select different profiles and add new customizations.’
    • ‘Swipe your finger across the screen or pinch and zoom to read your documents and presentations.’
    • ‘The Camera allows 4x digital Zoom - you have to pinch the screen to use the feature.’
    • ‘Given the small screen size, I appreciate that pinching the touchscreen lets me zoom in and out of the world on a whim.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Pinching outwards on the start screen will make the whole display zoom out and give you an overview of every app that you've got on the start screen.’
  • 3[no object] Live in a frugal way.

    ‘if I pinch and scrape, I might manage’
    • ‘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
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  • 4informal Arrest (someone)

    ‘I was pinched for speeding’
    • ‘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
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    1. 4.1Steal.
      ‘he pinched a handful of candies’
      • ‘The ad broker has been pinching employees from Microsoft and others and is developing quite the reputation.’
      • ‘What I can see is that people are going to be pinching other people's bins.’
      • ‘I tell you, someone is going to pinch this bloke for their band soonish.’
      • ‘Then, at home, I pinched my mother's detective stories and I read them in bed.’
      • ‘We scuttled back into the stand and pinched a couple of undercover seats.’
      steal, thieve, rob, take, snatch, pilfer, purloin, loot, rifle, abscond with, carry off
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  • 5Sailing
    Sail (a boat) so close to the wind that the sails begin to lose power.


  • 1An act of gripping the skin of someone's body between finger and thumb.

    ‘he gave her a gentle pinch’
    • ‘‘Oh, he's her boyfriend,’ stated Clay, rather smoothly, and in turn gained a sharp pinch in the side by yours truly.’
    • ‘Try strokes, caresses, nips, pinches and gentle scratches.’
    • ‘The bite was not venomous, just a pinch, and so to dinner, cat and beetle not invited.’
    • ‘Melibe will swim in response to pinches.’
    • ‘I avoided all the pinches and kisses and hugs by staying in Derek's room.’
    • ‘Several tales exist concerning alleged damage of earwigs: how they like to crawl into ears or how the forceps cause a painful pinch.’
    • ‘I have been on the receiving end of a pinch from a man when I worked in a hospital.’
    • ‘Sara brushed some curls from the cherub face and gave her nose a gentle pinch.’
    • ‘And I am not sure I would be swayed by the statement that a suicide bomber suffers no more pain than that of a pinch.’
    • ‘The little pinch looks innocuous, but boy does it hurt!’
    • ‘Unfortunately, I think I was given a slightly too large a pinch.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Democracy day is also a holiday, and whole families have come out to the polls, a pat-down for the parents, a playful pinch for the kids.’
    • ‘There's winking, strutting, flitting and flirting, pecks on the cheek and pinches on the bum.’
    • ‘Number of gropes, slaps, pinches and otherwise unwanted sexual attention endured: 0.’
    • ‘Ally felt a pinch as she looked at him; she hated to know that he was hurting.’
    • ‘He does not feel the pain of his killing except like a pinch.’
    nip, tweak, squeeze
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    1. 1.1An amount of an ingredient that can be held between fingers and thumb.
      ‘add a pinch of salt’
      • ‘The only added ingredients are a pinch of salt and, on the French fries, canola or soybean oil and citric acid.’
      • ‘This she mixed with a little raw garlic and some sugar and a pinch of MSG, which is cheaper than salt.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, to make the polenta, put 500 ml water in a heavy-based saucepan, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Cook the bread fruit and potatoes in a pressure cooker with a pinch of turmeric powder and salt.’
      • ‘Adding a pinch of MSG to my unreduced stock made it taste more brothy - that is, more like reduced stock.’
      • ‘For the pastry, place the flour and butter in a food processor with a pinch of salt and whizz until breadcrumbs.’
      • ‘While the pinch of something can as well, in general, a cook understands that a pinch is a modest amount, less than a teaspoon.’
      • ‘Place the first four ingredients in a food processor with a pinch of salt, and process until combined.’
      • ‘Place the polenta, flour, sugar and lemon zest in a food processor with a pinch of salt.’
      • ‘Mix 1/3 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of baking soda in a cup of water.’
      • ‘You've been trying to eat less sodium - just a pinch of table salt to your baked potato and a dash to your scrambled eggs.’
      • ‘To check for acidity in the soil, take a tablespoon of wet soil and add a pinch of baking soda.’
      • ‘Top with a pinch of snipped tomato and drizzle over a tiny dab of pesto.’
      • ‘Other ingredients which find their way into the blender include a pinch of Salt, Black Pepper, some grated Onions, Coriander, grated Parsley and some Cream.’
      • ‘In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white with a pinch of salt to make soft peaks.’
      • ‘Next I'd sprinkle a pinch of good sea salt - not much, just a bit, enough to bring out the flavor of the natural sweetness of tofu.’
      • ‘Gently stir together the first six ingredients with a pinch of salt until well mixed.’
      • ‘In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and the pinch of salt into stiff peaks.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, put the two egg whites in a third heatproof bowl with a pinch of salt.’
      small quantity, bit, touch, dash, spot, trace, soupçon, speck, taste
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  • 2informal An arrest.

    1. 2.1An act of theft or plagiarism.


  • in a pinch

    • In a critical situation; if absolutely necessary.

      • ‘But the data basically show that most people are willing, in a pinch, to impose higher taxes on someone else.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Chimneys are the perfect habitat for these birds, although they will nest in silos, wells, air shafts, or abandoned buildings in a pinch.’
      • ‘Saudi Arabia produces 9 million barrels a day, and can do 11 in a pinch.’
      • ‘An on-board doctor could help the person out, and in a pinch, the flight could simply land somewhere quickly.’
      • ‘But in a pinch, when the chips were really down, both have been willing to do so.’
      • ‘Vermouth and Lemon meet these requirements nicely, although oranges, capers, Marsala also would have done in a pinch.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I'm not that into cold cereal but could do that in a pinch.’
      • ‘If you were in a pinch, you might sell your socket wrenches, Tupperware, and Englebert Humperdink record collection.’
      if necessary, with difficulty, in case of necessity, if need be, in an emergency, just possibly
      in a pinch
      at a push
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  • feel the pinch

    • Experience hardship, especially financial.

      • ‘Farmers living in this community have felt the pinch in recent times with the dispute at the Department of Agriculture greatly affecting their livelihoods and putting them under severe pressure.’
      • ‘Over the next three years, dozens of exploration companies were forced to close and the Texas banks which supported the industry felt the pinch.’
      • ‘The automotive industry, and the housing industry are both beginning to feel the pinch.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They have all felt the pinch of our economic hard times as a crushing burden they were unfamiliar with until the last two-three years.’
      • ‘The position of the Coptic communities is becoming more insecure and they are the first to feel the pinch of hardship.’
      • ‘Both men are septuagenarians who have felt the pinch of ageism in a business that often dismisses extensive experience and talent as irrelevant.’
      • ‘Landlords and shopkeepers whose premises line the ancient square beneath Holy Trinity Church have all felt the pinch since the market disappeared, and even had to repackage the area as a tourist attraction.’
      • ‘Consumers, though they may have felt the pinch from tightening bank lending standards, show little signs of slowing down.’
      • ‘While it has not been directly involved in the bursting of the technology bubble, Ramsay admits the company has felt the pinch with more companies chasing the same contracts and smaller margins available on each contract.’
      suffer hardship, have less money, be short of money, be poor, be impoverished, suffer poverty, suffer adversity
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  • have to pinch oneself

    • Used to convey that a good situation is so surprising that the person involved has to make sure they are not imagining it.

      ‘sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize it isn't all a dream’
      • ‘Mr Obama's former colleagues have to pinch themselves that their now illustrious friend has a real shot at the White House.’
      • ‘I have to pinch myself sometimes to believe how far we've come.’
      • ‘The jazz singer of the moment tells Charles Hutchinson that most days she still has to pinch herself.’
      • ‘At this point in the interview I had to pinch myself.’
      • ‘At this point I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.’
      • ‘Roger East occasionally has to pinch himself to make sure he isn't dreaming.’
      • ‘I have to pinch myself to realize he's 24.’
      • ‘I had to pinch myself in case I was dreaming.’
      • ‘The more Collins talks, the more you have to pinch yourself.’
      • ‘She almost had to pinch herself to believe it was true.’
  • pinch (one's) pennies


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