[ thuhm-skroo ]

  1. a screw, the head of which is so constructed that it may be turned easily with the thumb and a finger.

  2. Often thumbscrews. an old instrument of torture by which one or both thumbs were compressed.

Origin of thumbscrew

First recorded in 1705–15; thumb + screw

Words Nearby thumbscrew Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use thumbscrew in a sentence

  • Whereon the bloated tyrant sent his prætorians, and enforced payment by scourge and thumbscrew?

    Froude's History of England | Charles Kingsley

British Dictionary definitions for thumbscrew


/ (ˈθʌmˌskruː) /

  1. an instrument of torture that pinches or crushes the thumbs

  2. a screw with projections on its head enabling it to be turned by the thumb and forefinger

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