[ thuhm ]
See synonyms for: thumbthumbedthumbing on

  1. the short, thick, inner digit of the human hand, next to the forefinger.

  2. the corresponding digit in other animals; pollex.

  1. the part of a glove or mitten for containing this digit.

  2. Architecture. an ovolo or echinus molding.

verb (used with object)
  1. to soil or wear with the thumbs in handling, as the pages of a book.

  2. to glance through (the pages of a book, leaflet, etc.) quickly.

  1. to play (a guitar or other instrument) with or as with the thumbs.

  2. (of a hitchhiker) to solicit or get (a ride) by pointing the thumb in the desired direction of travel.

Idioms about thumb

  1. all thumbs, awkward; clumsy; bungling: The visitor almost knocked over a vase and seemed to be all thumbs.

  2. thumb one's nose,

    • to put one's thumb to one's nose and extend the fingers as a crudely defiant or contemptuous gesture.

    • to express defiance or contempt; dismiss or reject contemptuously.

  1. thumbs down, a gesture or expression of dissent or disapproval: We turned thumbs down to that suggestion.

  2. thumbs up, a gesture or expression of assent or approval.

  3. under one's thumb, under the power or influence of; subordinate to.: Also under the thumb of.

Origin of thumb

before 900; Middle English; Old English thūma; cognate with Dutch duim,Old Saxon, Old High German dūmo (German Daumen), Old Norse thumall; akin to Latin tumēre to swell (tumor)

Other words from thumb

  • thumbless, adjective
  • thumblike, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use thumb in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for thumb


/ (θʌm) /

  1. the first and usually shortest and thickest of the digits of the hand, composed of two short bones: Technical name: pollex Related adjective: pollical

  2. the corresponding digit in other vertebrates

  1. the part of a glove shaped to fit the thumb

  2. architect another name for ovolo

  3. all thumbs clumsy

  4. thumbs down an indication of refusal, disapproval, or negation: he gave the thumbs down on our proposal

  5. thumbs up an indication of encouragement, approval, or acceptance

  6. under someone's thumb at someone's mercy or command

  1. (tr) to touch, mark, or move with the thumb

  2. to attempt to obtain (a lift or ride) by signalling with the thumb

  1. (when intr, often foll by through) to flip the pages of (a book, magazine, etc) perfunctorily in order to glance at the contents

  2. thumb one's nose at to deride or mock, esp by placing the thumb on the nose with fingers extended

Origin of thumb

Old English thūma; related to Old Saxon thūma, Old High German thūmo, Old Norse thumall thumb of a glove, Latin tumēre to swell

Derived forms of thumb

  • thumbless, adjective
  • thumblike, adjective

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with thumb


In addition to the idioms beginning with thumb

  • thumb a ride
  • thumb one's nose
  • thumbs up

also see:

  • all thumbs
  • green thumb
  • rule of thumb
  • stick out (like a sore thumb)
  • twiddle one's thumbs
  • under someone's thumb

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