black thumb


: a notable inability to make plants grow : a tendency to fail as a gardener
Ever since I was a child, I was known for a really bad black thumb—I could not grow anything, and even worse, plants seemed to die under my supervision, even the plastic kind.Monica Bhide, Chicago Sun-Times, 13 Apr. 2011
In addition, I have a black thumb that can kill a petunia at 10 paces.Rob Pudim, Salt Lake Tribune, 11 Sept. 2009
also : a person who has a black thumb
Calling all black thumbs and those who are averse to flower arranging: Hardy succulents are the perfect solution for anyone who can't remember to water plants or who struggles to pull together a centerpiece. Good Housekeeping, 1 Sept. 2010
Even black thumbs will have a hard time killing plants in this self-watering pot. Wendy Manwarren, Redbook, 1 June 2009
compare green thumb
Even a black-thumbed buddy can tend voluptuous tuberous begonias, which are happy in a less-than-light-filled home, or cultivate highly textured scented geraniums … Laura Kalehoff, Self, February 2008
The terrarium is ideal for the black-thumbed gardener who kills anything green. Mary-Liz Shaw, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 28 Jan. 2007

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1954, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of black thumb was circa 1954

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Dictionary Entries Near black thumb

Cite this Entry

“Black thumb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

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