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twiddle

[twid-l]
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verb (used with object), twid·dled, twid·dling.
  1. to turn about or play with lightly or idly, especially with the fingers; twirl.
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verb (used without object), twid·dled, twid·dling.
  1. to play or trifle idly with something; fiddle.
  2. to turn about lightly; twirl.
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noun
  1. the act of twiddling; turn; twirl.
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Idioms
  1. twiddle one's thumbs, to do nothing; be idle: Business was slack, and the salespeople were twiddling their thumbs.
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Origin of twiddle

1530–40; perhaps blend of twitch and fiddle
Related formstwid·dler, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for twiddle one's thumbs

twiddle

verb
  1. (when intr, often foll by with) to twirl or fiddle (with), often in an idle way
  2. to do nothing; be unoccupied
  3. (intr) to turn, twirl, or rotate
  4. (intr) rare to be occupied with trifles
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noun
  1. an act or instance of twiddling
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Derived Formstwiddler, noun

Word Origin

C16: probably a blend of twirl + fiddle
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 twiddle one's thumbs

twiddle

v.

1540s, "to trifle," of unknown origin; of the fingers, first recorded 1670s. Figurative phrase twiddle one's thumbs "have nothing to do" is recorded from 1846; to twirl one's thumbs in the same sense is recorded from 1816. Related: Twiddled; twiddling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with twiddle one's thumbs

twiddle one's thumbs

Be bored or idle, as in There I sat for three hours, twiddling my thumbs, while he made call after call. This expression alludes to the habit of idly turning one's thumbs about one another during a period of inactivity. [Mid-1800s]

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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.