Word of the Day: pinch

pinch (verb, noun) /pɪntʃ/ LISTEN

A man pinching his nose

To pinch means ‘to squeeze something between your fingers’ and also ‘to squeeze really tightly,’ to the point where it can hurt. Pinch also means ‘to affect with great discomfort or distress.’ Informally, pinch means ‘to steal’ and, in UK English, ‘to arrest.’ As a noun, a pinch is a squeeze, the act of pinching, and also a small amount of something. It is also a situation of stress and emergency. Informally, apinch is a theft and, in UK English, an arrest.


Example sentences

  • Kevin pinched his belly fat, wondering if he'd lost any yet.
  • Emily's new shoes are pinching her feet.
  • Many families have been pinched by the current state of the economy.
  • Some people never buy printer paper; they just pinch it from work.
  • The police pinched the robber as he was leaving the bank.
  • Add just a pinch of paprika.

Words often used with pinch

take something with a pinch of salt: consider something with a certain amount of cynicism. Example: “Larry told you he used to be CEO of a major corporation? Well, he’s always exaggerating. I’d take that with a pinch of salt, if I were you!”

Multi-word forms

in a pinch (US), at a pinch (UK): if really necessary, in an emergency. Example: “I’m not sure if we have enough food for everyone, but in a pinch we can always run out to the grocery store.”

pinch pennies: cut back your expenses as much as possible. Example: “I wish I earned more money; sometimes it feels like I’m always pinching pennies.”

feel the pinch (UK): be in financial difficulties. Example: “Since Caroline lost her job, her family has really been feeling the pinch.”

Did you know?

You might sometimes hear English speakers use the expression “I had to pinch myself” or something similar. It means the person couldn’t quite believe what was happening and thought they might be dreaming. If you pinch yourself and you don’t wake up, you must already be awake. Most people don’t really pinch themselves though!

Other forms

pinchable (adjective)


Pinch came into English in the late 13th century, as the Middle English verbpinchen, from the Anglo-French pinchier, which in turn came from the Vulgar Latin verb pīnctiāre, a variant of pūnctiāre, meaning ‘to prick.’ It is related to the Old French verb pincier and the Spanish verb pinchar. The noun was derived from the verb.

Pinch was suggested by Ángela, from Spain

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