In a Pickle – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

In a pickle means suddenly finding yourself in a difficult or sticky situation. It’s the metaphorical messes that we all get ourselves into from time to time.

Originating from the literal pickling process, which involves preserving something in a fermenting solution, the idiom has come to describe finding yourself in a situation that’s far from sweet and can be applied to so many situations.

An idiom is a phrase or expression whose meaning cannot be understood from the ordinary meanings of its individual words. Idioms like this help infuse your speech with character and zing, but only if you use them correctly.

So, let me explain the deeper meaning and origin of in a pickle and show you how to use it in sentences.

In a Pickle Meaning Explained

In a Pickle – Idiom Meaning and Origin

To be in a pickle means that you’re basically caught in a challenging or troublesome circumstance, and it’s hard to get out. It might refer to having to choose between two equally bad options or navigating the complexities of a group project gone wrong. Whatever the context, it’s not where you want to be.

‘In a Pickle’ Origin and Etymology

In a Pickle Ngram
In a pickle usage trend.

The phrase “in a pickle” dates back to the mid-16th century and originally alluded to the idea of being immersed in a challenging or uncomfortable situation, much like vegetables soaked in brine. Shakespeare made reference to this phrase in his play, “The Tempest,” with the line, “How cam’st thou in a pickle?”

During this period, it was also colloquially linked to the idea of being heavily intoxicated. However, its modern idiomatic meaning, which suggests being in a tricky or problematic situation, became widely recognized in the early 17th century, securing its place in common parlance.

Synonyms for ‘in a Pickle’

Using ‘in a Pickle’: Examples in a Sentence

In a Pickle – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

  • I forgot to study for the test; now I’m really in a pickle.
  • She found herself in a pickle when she accidentally double-booked her meetings.
  • You’re in a pickle if you think you can procrastinate and still get an A in math class.
  • With the car’s engine failing and no sign of civilization, we were in quite a pickle.
  • Being in a pickle, John didn’t know which job offer to accept.
  • The politician was in a pickle over the recent scandal.
  • I committed to the book signing event, but I’ve come down with a horrible cold and find myself in a pickle.
  • They realized they were in a pickle when they got the dates mixed up and realized they had two days, not two weeks, to finish the project.
  • We’ve found ourselves in a pickle; we need more time to make this decision.
  • If you keep ignoring your responsibilities as an adult, you’ll end up in a real pickle.

In a Pickle? Now You Know How to Describe It!

In a pickle is the perfect idiom to match your mood when you find yourself stuck with something. When you take the time to read and learn about fun idioms like this one, you’re arming yourself with the ability to communicate more precisely and entertainingly. Take a crunchy bite out of more of my idiom guides and add color to your conversations.