from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To squeeze (something) between the thumb and a finger, the jaws of a tool, or other edges.
  • intransitive verb To cause pain or discomfort to (a part of the body) by pressing or being too tight.
  • intransitive verb To nip, wither, or shrivel.
  • intransitive verb To cause to be in difficulty or financial distress.
  • intransitive verb Slang To take (money or property) wrongfully. synonym: steal.
  • intransitive verb Slang To take into custody; arrest.
  • intransitive verb To move (something) with a pinch bar.
  • intransitive verb Nautical To sail (a boat) so close into the wind that its sails shiver and its speed is reduced.
  • intransitive verb To press, squeeze, or bind painfully.
  • intransitive verb To draw a thumb and a finger together on a touchschreen to cause the image to become smaller.
  • intransitive verb To be frugal or miserly.
  • intransitive verb Nautical To drag an oar at the end of a stroke.
  • noun The act or an instance of pinching.
  • noun An amount that can be held between thumb and forefinger.
  • noun Difficulty or hardship.
  • noun An emergency situation.
  • noun A narrowing of a mineral deposit, as in a mine.
  • noun Informal A theft.
  • noun Slang An arrest by a law enforcement officer.
  • adjective Relating to pinch-hitting or pinch runners.
  • idiom (pinch pennies) To be thrifty or miserly.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In mining, a partial caving in or compression of the walls of a vein of ore or of a coal-bed, sufficient to disturb the ore or coal-bed. Sometimes called a pinch-out.
  • noun The pressure exerted by the finger and thumb when brought together forcibly upon something, or any similar pressure; a nip: as, to give one a pinch on the arm.
  • noun As much of anything as can be lifted between the finger and thumb; hence, a very small quantity: as, a pinch of snuff; a pinch of salt.
  • noun A gripe; a pang.
  • noun Pressure; oppression; difficulty; need.
  • noun A pinch-bar.
  • To compress between the finger and thumb, or between the teeth, or the claws, or with pincers or some similar instrument; squeeze or nip between two hard opposing bodies; nip; squeeze: as, to pinch one's self to keep awake.
  • To squeeze or press painfully upon: as, his shoes pinch his feet.
  • To seize or grip and bite: said of an animal.
  • To find fault with.
  • To plait.
  • To straiten; distress; afflict: as, to be pinched for food; pinched with poverty.
  • To narrow, contract, or nip, as by cold or want or trouble: as, pinched features; a mind narrow and pinched.
  • To move with a pinch or crowbar: as, to pinch a gun into position.
  • To exert a compressing or nipping pressure or force; bear hard: as, that is where the shoe pinches.
  • To lay hold; bite or snap, as a dog.
  • To snarl; carp; find fault.
  • To be sparing, parsimonious, or niggardly.
  • To encroach.
  • To arrest (an offender).
  • To steal.
  • Nautical, to sail (a vessel) as close to the wind as she can be brought without spilling the wind out of the sails, that is, without luffing her. A sailing-vessel is said to be starved for wind when she is pinched hard.
  • To compress or be squeezed out, as mineral ore from between rock strata.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To press hard or squeeze between the ends of the fingers, between teeth or claws, or between the jaws of an instrument; to squeeze or compress, as between any two hard bodies.
  • transitive verb obsolete to seize; to grip; to bite; -- said of animals.
  • transitive verb obsolete To plait.
  • transitive verb Figuratively: To cramp; to straiten; to oppress; to starve; to distress.
  • transitive verb To move, as a railroad car, by prying the wheels with a pinch. See Pinch, n., 4.
  • transitive verb Slang To seize by way of theft; to steal; to lift.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English pinchen, from Old North French *pinchier, variant of Old French pincier, perhaps from Vulgar Latin *pīnctiāre.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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 *pikōnan, *pukanan (“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.


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