in a pinch

in a pinch


  • being in a situation where the preferred or ideal choice is unavailable.
  • appearing as a substitute.
  • to be hard-pressed.
  • to be in an emergency.
  • being in a terrible situation where you need help.

Example Sentences

  1. This diet will do in a pinch. It is better than going hungry.
  2. When I lost my house keys, I was in a pinch, but luckily, my brother was home.
  3. We were in a pinch when the bus did not arrive. Thank you for the help.
  4. If in a pinch, substitute sugar with molasses for the recipe.
  5. If you ever find yourself in a pinch, you can use my car to get to work.
  6. My brother has always been there to help me whenever I have been in a pinch.
  7. I was in a pinch when my luggage did not show up at the airport.


This phrase, used as an expression of being hard-pressed, can be traced back to the late 1400s. Originally, it appeared as the phrase “at a pinch,” still used in current British daily language. The “pinch” is used as an allusion to strained circumstances. The phrase appeared in print in 1489 when William Caxton translated The Book of Faytes of Armes and of Chyualrye. It makes its next major appearance in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1888 novel, Black Arrow. The more modern phrase, meaning the same, is “in a jam,” implying that one is squeezed or compressed by circumstances or is in a tight spot.


  • in a jam


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The Idioms Dictionary explains common English idioms that are popular worldwide, especially in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand.

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