sit on one's hands


Take no action; also, fail to applaud. For example, Instead of making a new will, George is sitting on his hands, or The matinee audience was apathetic, sitting on their hands for the whole performance. Both usages of this metaphor for passivity date from the first half of the 1900s.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.