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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for thumbscrew

Historical Examples of thumbscrew

British Dictionary definitions for thumbscrew


  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