Definition of thumb in English:

thumb

Pronunciation /THəm/ /θəm/

noun

  • 1The short, thick first digit of the human hand, set lower and apart from the other four and opposable to them.

    • ‘The most commonly affected digits are the thumb and index finger.’
    • ‘This section passes through the four fingers, the thumb having been seen for the last time in the preceding section.’
    • ‘Using both hands, each testicle should be gently rolled between the thumb and index finger to find any lumps or irregular areas.’
    • ‘Nick held his thumb and forefinger apart about a half an inch.’
    • ‘The hands looked almost normal, with four fingers and an opposable thumb.’
    • ‘You know, twiddling your thumbs really isn't as easy as it looks, they keep knocking together.’
    • ‘She jerked her thumb over her shoulder towards the entrance without looking up.’
    • ‘Lowell, currently sidelined by a broken left thumb, is one of 15 Marlins eligible for arbitration.’
    • ‘I jabbed a thumb in the opposite direction where an identical car was parked.’
    • ‘The Italian rider suffered concussion and a fractured left thumb that needed hospital treatment.’
    • ‘I hooked my thumbs through my belt loops and observed the class.’
    • ‘I wore four other rings; two thumb rings, a pinky ring, and another index finger ring.’
    • ‘C Jason Kendall is healthy again after a thumb injury ruined his 2001 season.’
    • ‘Slowly everything around him lost clarity as he focused tightly on the thumb prints.’
    • ‘Mole crickets can wreak havoc on lawns and golf courses: the adults dig burrows as big across as your thumb, and the larvae eat grass roots.’
    • ‘If you turn one hand so that both thumbs point the same way, that one will no longer be palm-up.’
    • ‘To understand parallax, hold your arm straight out in front of you and raise your thumb.’
    • ‘Occasionally babies are born without a thumb or with a rudimentary thumb.’
    • ‘It protrudes like a giant thumb from the east coast of Mexico, dividing the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea.’
    • ‘While your arms are well rested to your sides, your sleeves should end where your thumbs begin.’
    • ‘Do the exercise with your palms inward, thumbs pointing up.’
    digit, first digit, opposable digit
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    1. 1.1The corresponding digit of primates or other mammals.
      • ‘The thumb and toe claws have an extra talon, which is unique in bats.’
      • ‘The forefeet have 5 digits, but the thumb is reduced in size. The hind feet have five functional digits.’
      • ‘Its retractable, switchblade-like claws on its thumbs worked as grappling hooks to bring an animal to the ground, Wroe said.’
      • ‘The thumb is small and has a vestigial claw, similar to the New World furipterids.’
      • ‘One controversy centers on the utility of the Neanderthal thumb.’
      • ‘Neighbors recognize each other by scent; unfamiliar visitors are greeted with a harsh snarl and a hooking thumb claw.’
      • ‘Smoky bats are very small bats with much reduced thumbs that are mostly enclosed in the wing membrane.’
      • ‘That argument is false, Sober said, because it assumes we know what God was trying to do with the panda's thumb.’
      • ‘Stephen Jay Gould famously used the panda's thumb to illustrate the same principle.’
      digit, first digit, opposable digit
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2The part of a glove intended to cover the thumb.
      • ‘Put a few drops of peppermint oil on the thumb patches of your gloves, so you can sniff on the fly.’
      • ‘The top of the thumb is covered with nose friendly fabric so you can swipe away those tickles without rasping your shnoz.’
      • ‘The thumb part of the glove should fold down underneath the fingers and point down.’
      • ‘A backhand catch in which the thumb of the glove points down and the glove-arm is positioned across the body must be practiced as much as the open-hand catch.’
      • ‘Normally, there are four types of design of the glove's thumb, which are Wing Thumb, Straight Thumb, Keystone Thumb, and Reversible Thumb.’

transitive verb

[with object]
  • 1Press, move, or touch (something) with one's thumb.

    ‘as soon as she thumbed the button, the door slid open’
    • ‘The intercom beeped on a console near the galley and Merlin moved to thumb the control.’
    • ‘However, at 127 minutes and with a dialogue-heavy middle, some more impatient folk may be thumbing the scan forward button.’
    • ‘Nakamura fished a cell phone from his pants pocket, and the device chirped as he thumbed the two-way communication button.’
    • ‘He leaned forward and thumbed the intercom button on the computer terminal.’
    • ‘He quickly thumbed the bee's wax out of his ears and tossed it on the ground.’
    • ‘At the ready with the muzzle up, you can quickly thumb a hammer back as you shoulder it.’
    • ‘No sooner have you thumbed the remote control, than legions of sherry-sodden aunts, bickering uncles and brattish weans are filing out of your living room.’
    • ‘He thumbed the buttons hard a couple of times, then pushed it aside.’
    • ‘He leaned over and thumbed the remote beside the lamp.’
    • ‘I thumbed the button on my cell phone which bore the symbol of a green handset.’
    • ‘The pilot thumbs a firing button, and a family is blown to smithereens.’
    • ‘She thumbed the safety back into the ‘on’ position.’
    • ‘The door slid aside when he thumbed a square button beside the panel, but the lights did not come on automatically as they had in the corridor.’
    • ‘The doorman thumbed the button and steel doors rang and parted open.’
    • ‘Merlin thumbed the call switch and leaned forward.’
    • ‘But the not-so-silent majority who march through our streets shouting into their mobile phones, or are furiously thumbing text messages to one another, may be less concerned.’
    • ‘He passed one of the youth gangs on the way, muttering into their phones and thumbing at their keyboards, coordinating their crimefighting activities.’
    • ‘Despite the flurry of action as we hijack the room, he continues to thumb out a furious text message and refuses to say hello.’
    press, push, push down, depress, lean on
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    1. 1.1Turn over (pages) with or as if with one's thumb.
      ‘I've thumbed my address book and found quite a range of smaller hotels’
      no object ‘he was thumbing through that magazine for the umpteenth time’
      • ‘Anyway, I am thumbing through the friendster pages via a search for ‘Interests: Blading’ in hope of finding some blading kakis.’
      • ‘But who can deny perusing the headlines, even thumbing through the pages, of the occasional supermarket tabloid while waiting to ring up our groceries?’
      • ‘After thumbing through a few pages, I was hooked immediately.’
      • ‘I sat on my bed and began thumbing through the pages of my fantasies.’
      • ‘‘This isn't working,’ mumbled Vladimir Vladimirovich as he pulled his presidential address book from his jacket pocket and started thumbing through it.’
      • ‘Encyclopedias on CD-Rom can provide access to information much quicker than thumbing through stacks of books.’
      • ‘I picked up Toole's book because, thumbing through it, I'd read a paragraph that rang with truth as I had come to know it with Muhammad Ali.’
      • ‘I find myself picking this book up and thumbing through it repetitively.’
      • ‘The President looked up from the papers he was thumbing through, and referred to some large, recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Turkey.’
      • ‘At the mid-point of the first running of this programme, I'm thumbing through some of those linkages in a self-imposed revision process.’
      • ‘I was thumbing through the mail this afternoon, innocently enough, only to be frightened by this evil, leering tree that popped out at me.’
      • ‘We've been thumbing through the guide to this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, trying to decide what we'll go see this year.’
      • ‘In fact, music critics everywhere are thumbing through a thesaurus, competing to compose a squirtier review of her impressive sophomore album.’
      • ‘In terms of the Powell approach, I'm not sure exactly what the Powell approach is, other than thumbing through his Rolodex.’
      • ‘Donna was eating Triscuts and thumbing through the Daily News.’
      • ‘I duly placed the chilled pies into the microwave and commenced the cooking process and began thumbing through the newspaper.’
      • ‘The guard leans back in his booth, thumbing a paper, watching the clock.’
      • ‘Students at Manchester University no longer need to thumb through dusty texts when reading classics of English literature.’
      • ‘It's all the rage, flick on your TV, thumb through a magazine or listen to the radio - everyone's at it.’
      • ‘When I thumbed through his journal at the shop today I had the strong feeling that he never intended for these thoughts to be publicised.’
      leaf, flick, flip, skim, browse, glance, look, riffle
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    2. 1.2usually be thumbedWear or soil (a book's pages) by repeated handling.
      ‘his dictionaries were thumbed and ink-stained’
      • ‘I do so love my books, so much so that I couldn't bring myself to read books that had been thumbed a thousand times over.’
      • ‘The smell and feel of them but books that have been thumbed through by hundreds and gone yellowy don't have quite the same appeal.’
      • ‘In our own kids' bookshelves, they're the most battered, thumbed and falling-apart books, so often have they been read.’
      • ‘The following year I was keen to get hold of the latest version of the book that had become a well thumbed favourite.’
      • ‘A well-thumbed Bible is always open on his desk in Edmonton's Parliament Building.’
      • ‘Some are so well thumbed that the tattered pages look ready to crumble.’
    3. 1.3Request or obtain (a free ride in a passing vehicle) by signaling with one's thumb.
      ‘three cars passed me and I tried to thumb a ride’
      no object ‘he was thumbing his way across France’
      • ‘And even if he found out where he was working out in Rio, he couldn't very well thumb a ride out there, could he?’
      • ‘You could otherwise hope that a friendly soul at the Clachaig will offer a lift, or thumb a ride back: you would be unlucky if no-one stopped.’
      • ‘Later, while filling his car radiator with water at a service station, he offers a lift to a young woman who is also trying to thumb a ride west.’
      • ‘After twenty minutes of delicate, measured thumbing at passing traffic, could we get a car to stop?’
      • ‘I was driving a car, I saw two people thumbing a lift near the Barlo garage on the outskirts of Kilkenny.’
      • ‘He had with him a folding bicycle and, thumbing a lift from the royal navy, safely crossed the channel and arrived back at Keevil, complete with bike.’
      • ‘In those days, thumbing a lift was an accepted part of life for young people and even those who had long passed their middle age.’
      • ‘The A819 out of Inveraray is the most direct route north, but after 40 minutes of fruitless thumbing I decided to start walking in the hope of finding a more advantageous pitch.’
      • ‘She had thumbed through Central America with another girl.’
      • ‘I spent a lot of my time thumbing a lift on the road between Naas and Athy.’
      • ‘He has no transport so can often be spotted thumbing a lift to games around the area.’
      • ‘Plus, he couldn't risk drawing attention to himself by thumbing a ride.’
      • ‘Reagan also stood on the corner of routes 26 and 29 in Ohio while thumbing a ride to Dixon.’
      hitch-hike, ask for, request, signal for
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Phrases

    be all thumbs
    • Be clumsy or awkward in one's actions.

      ‘I'm all thumbs when it comes to making bows’
      • ‘I am not just all thumbs, more all toes.’
      • ‘You are all thumbs in the kitchen.’
      • ‘"He's all thumbs, Amelia."’
      • ‘"When she is working in the house, she is all thumbs."’
      • ‘I've been all thumbs and screw up everything I touch.’
      • ‘If you are all thumbs when it comes to your hair ask a talented friend or your favorite stylist to help you achieve this style.’
      • ‘I'm trying to get a PDF of the letter up as well, but I'm all thumbs with this pesky technology, so bear with me.’
      • ‘I'm all thumbs when it comes to any kind of decorating, even presents.’
      • ‘His bumbling, childlike Mr Bean was all thumbs and two left feet, and the fact that he rarely spoke meant his vaudevillian humour travelled well.’
      • ‘"I'm all thumbs when it comes to loading the reels."’
    under someone's thumb
    • Completely under someone's influence or control.

      ‘he was very much under the thumb of his father’
      • ‘‘You must be really satisfied at how you managed to hook me under your thumb all these years,’ he went on relentlessly.’
      • ‘Tenali Rama's interpretation: You must not become a shrew but must be so to some extent in order to keep your husband under your thumb.’
      • ‘Give it a couple of weeks, and The Man will soon stop asking you to do anything, and soon enough you'll have him under your thumb.’
      • ‘But Beck made little progress: advocates had the City Council under their thumb.’
      • ‘God is the creation of a few powerful people to keep the gullible masses under their thumb.’
      • ‘He was doing all those hurtful things people do when they think they have you under their thumb.’
      • ‘This is the beginning of the end for the British Army and their fight to keep the colonies under King George 's thumb.’
      • ‘Keeping a ship with 460 people on board under Howard 's thumb for 6 days has cost $20 million, as much as it would have cost to keep these boat people in detention for 434 days.’
      • ‘The only other site capable of producing deuterium at the time was in Vemork, Norway, which had been under Hitler 's thumb since 1940.’
      • ‘The solution to conflicts such as this is obviously not to put the police back under the military 's thumb.’
    thumbs up
    informal
    • An indication of satisfaction or approval.

      ‘they hope the audience will give a thumbs up to the TV series’
      • ‘Many watching the march demonstrated their approval by giving a thumbs up or by clapping.’
      • ‘It would be a pity that this event would not be celebrated and the thumbs up sign has already given it the green light.’
      • ‘I made my challenge and he accepted it with his version of a thumbs up.’
      • ‘Isn't it true that all the relevant statutory authorities have given the projects the thumbs up?’
      • ‘The author - Jakob Nielsen - also gives a big thumbs down to subscriptions and advertisements.’
      • ‘Councillors agreed to send the letter at the January meeting of the local authority after giving the proposal a firm thumbs down.’
      • ‘They seemed to approve of my subject because I received some thumbs up signals.’
      • ‘All three chief officers of the services have given it the thumbs up.’
      • ‘It's with great regret that I give a collective thumbs down to a movie starring the normally entertaining Matthew Perry.’
      • ‘Frequent-flier expert Randy Petersen gave a thumbs down to the move.’
    thumb one's nose at
    informal
    • Show disdain or contempt for.

      ‘high-strung and unpredictable, he routinely thumbed his nose at authority’
      • ‘He had the women, he had the gadgets and he was thumbing his nose at what was considered politically correct at the time.’
      • ‘Even more significantly, in having married a black woman, Becker seemed to be thumbing his nose at deeply ingrained Aryan idealism.’
      • ‘Yet instead of pursuing a bi-partisan agenda, he has thumbed his nose at over half of the American population.’
      • ‘You can thumb your nose at all the people who are younger than you’
      • ‘We cannot allow activist local elected officials to thumb their nose at 5,000 years of human history.’
      • ‘All you know is, there's no rule she's afraid to thumb her nose at.’
      • ‘By thumbing our nose at the world and dismissing the consensus views of the scientific community, we are scaring off that talent and sending it to our competitors.’
      • ‘William Kristol has used the page to attack Colin Powell, George Will to thumb his nose at the State Department and Robert Novak to deride the CIA.’
      • ‘The reader or viewer who thumbs his nose at the copyright notice risks receiving a threatening letter from the copyright owner.’
      • ‘There is nothing ordinary about a man who thumbs his nose at the system of justice and to reward him, in effect, with a pardon.’
    thumbs down
    informal
    • An indication of rejection or failure.

      ‘plans to build a house on the site have been given the thumbs down by the Department of the Environment’

Origin

Old English thūma, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch duim and German Daumen, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin tumere ‘to swell’. The verb dates from the late 16th century, first in the sense ‘play (a musical instrument) with the thumbs’.

Pronunciation

thumb

/THəm/ /θəm/