verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)

to touch or handle something with the fingers.
to extend in or as in the shape of a finger: Landing piers finger out into the river along the city's shoreline.


    burn one's fingers, to suffer injury or loss by meddling or by acting rashly: If you get involved in the controversy, you may burn your fingers.
    give (someone) the finger, Slang. to express contempt for by or as by the obscene gesture of pointing the middle finger upward while folding the other fingers against the palm.
    have a finger in the pie,
    1. to have an interest or share in something.
    2. to meddle in something.
    keep one's fingers crossed, to wish for good luck or success, as in a specific endeavor: Keep your fingers crossed that I get the job.
    lay/put one's finger on,
    1. to indicate exactly; remember: I know the name, but I can't put my finger on it.
    2. to discover; locate: I haven't been able to lay my finger on the book you requested.
    not lift a finger, to make not even a small attempt; do nothing: The house was falling into ruin, but he wouldn't lift a finger to repair it.
    put the finger on, Slang. finger(def 12).
    slip through one's fingers,
    1. to elude one, as an opportunity not taken; escape: She let the chance of a lifetime slip through her fingers.
    2. to pass or be consumed quickly: Money just slips through his fingers.
    snap one's fingers (at), to exhibit disdain or contempt (for): She snaps her fingers at the local gossip.
    twist/wrap around one's little finger, to exert one's influence easily or successfully upon: He has a remarkable talent for twisting people around his little finger.

Origin of finger

before 900; Middle English, Old English; cognate with German Finger, Dutch vinger, Old Norse fingr, Gothic figgrs
Related formsfin·ger·er, nounfin·ger·less, adjectivere·fin·ger, verb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for finger

Contemporary Examples of finger

Historical Examples of finger

  • Had his fist in my face before I could get my finger on the trigger.

  • She must not put even a finger out of the cellar-door all day.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Ah, by my finger bones, there is my sweet Mary from the Priory Mill!

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • He ran his finger around his collar—an old gesture; but the collar was very loose.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • She stood looking down, twisting her ring around her finger.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

British Dictionary definitions for finger



  1. any of the digits of the hand, often excluding the thumbTechnical name: digitus manus
  2. (as modifier)a finger bowl
  3. (in combination)a fingernail Related adjective: digital
the part of a glove made to cover a finger
something that resembles a finger in shape or functiona finger of land
Also called: digit the length or width of a finger used as a unit of measurement
a quantity of liquid in a glass, etc, as deep as a finger is wide; tot
a projecting machine part, esp one serving as an indicator, guide, or guard
burn one's fingers to suffer from having meddled or been rash
get one's finger out or pull one's finger out British informal to begin or speed up activity, esp after initial delay or slackness
have a finger in the pie or have one's finger in the pie
  1. to have an interest in or take part in some activity
  2. to meddle or interfere
lay a finger on (usually negative) to harm
lay one's finger on or put one's finger on to indicate, identify, or locate accurately
let slip through one's fingers to allow to escape; miss narrowly
not lift a finger or not raise a finger (foll by an infinitive) not to make any effort (to do something)
point the finger at to accuse or blame
put the finger on informal
  1. to inform on or identify, esp for the police
  2. to choose (the victim or location of an intended crime)
twist around one's little finger or wrap around one's little finger to have easy and complete control or influence over


(tr) to touch or manipulate with the fingers; handle
(tr) informal, mainly US to identify as a criminal or suspect
(intr) to extend like a finger
to use one's fingers in playing (an instrument, such as a piano or clarinet)
to indicate on (a composition or part) the fingering required by a pianist, harpsichordist, etc
(tr; usually passive) to arrange the keys of (a clarinet, flute, etc) for playing in a certain way
Derived Formsfingerer, nounfingerless, adjective

Word Origin for finger

Old English; related to Old Norse fingr, Gothic figgrs, Old High German fingar; see five, fist
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for finger

Old English fingor, from Proto-Germanic *fingraz (cf. Old Saxon fingar, Old Frisian finger, Old Norse fingr, Dutch vinger, German Finger, Gothic figgrs), with no cognates outside Germanic; perhaps connected with PIE *penkwe-, the root meaning "five."

As a unit of measure (Middle English) it represents the breadth of a finger, about three-quarters of an inch. They generally are numbered from the thumb, and named index finger, fool's finger, leech- or physic-finger, and ear-finger.


early 15c., "to touch or point to with the finger" (but cf. fingering from late 14c.), from finger (n.). Sense of "play upon a musical instrument" is from 1510s. The meaning "identify a criminal" is underworld slang first recorded 1930. Related: Fingered; fingering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for finger




One of the five digits of the hand, especially one other than the thumb.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with finger


In addition to the idiom beginning with finger

  • finger in the pie, have a

also see:

  • at one's fingertips
  • burn one's fingers
  • cross one's fingers
  • give someone the finger
  • lay a finger on
  • let slip (through the fingers)
  • not lift a finger
  • point the finger at
  • put one's finger on
  • put the finger on
  • snap one's fingers at
  • sticky fingers
  • twist around one's finger
  • work one's fingers to the bone
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.