1. exigency, extremity, pinch, quandary, plight. Emergency, crisis, straits refer to dangerous situations. An emergency is a situation demanding immediate action: A power failure created an emergency in transportation. A crisis is a vital or decisive turning point in a condition or state of affairs, and everything depends on the outcome of it: Help arrived when affairs had reached a crisis. Strait (usually straits ) suggests a pressing situation, often one of need or want: The family was in desperate straits for food and clothing.