[ thuhmz-uhp ]
/ ˈθʌmzˈʌp /

noun Informal.

an act, instance, or gesture of assent, approval, or the like.

Nearby words

  1. thumbpiece,
  2. thumbprint,
  3. thumbs down,
  4. thumbs up,
  5. thumbs-down,
  6. thumbscrew,
  7. thumbstall,
  8. thumbtack,
  9. thummim,
  10. thump

Origin of thumbs-up

First recorded in 1920–25


[ thuhm ]
/ θʌm /


verb (used with object)

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)

Related formsthumb·less, adjectivethumb·like, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for thumbs up


/ (θʌm) /



Derived Formsthumbless, adjectivethumblike, adjective

Word Origin for thumb

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

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 thumbs up
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for thumbs up


[ thŭm ]


The short thick digit of the human hand, next to the index finger and opposable to each of the other four digits.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Culture definitions for thumbs up

thumbs up

Expressions of approval and disapproval respectively: “The two critics disagreed about the movie; one gave it thumbs up, the other thumbs down.” In the gladiatorial contests of ancient Rome, a thumbs-up gesture from the crowd meant that the loser would live; thumbs down meant death.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with thumbs up

thumbs up

An expression of approval or hopefulness, as in The town said thumbs up on building the elderly housing project. The antonym thumbs down indicates disapproval or rejection, as in Mother gave us thumbs down on serving beer at our party. Alluding to crowd signals used in Roman amphitheaters, these idioms were first recorded in English about 1600. In ancient times the meaning of the gestures was opposite that of today. Thumbs down indicated approval; thumbs up, rejection. Exactly when the reversal occurred is not known, but the present conventions were established by the early 1900s.


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.