\ ˈthəm How to pronounce thumb (audio) \
plural thumbs

Definition of thumb

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the short thick digit of the human hand that is analogous in position to the big toe and differs from the other fingers in having only two phalanges, allowing greater freedom of movement, and being opposable to each of them also : a corresponding digit in lower animals
2 : the part of a glove or mitten that covers the thumb
3 something resembling or suggesting a thumb I steep the tea with a thumb of ginger, which brings a lovely hint of spice …— Sarah Nasello I stop for a while among the crowds at the Pinnacle, a thumb of rock protruding from the rim of the Wonderland Range above Halls Gap.— Andrew Bain
4 : a convex molding : ovolo
all thumbs
: extremely awkward or clumsy
under one's thumb or under the thumb
: under control : in a state of subservience her father did not have her that much under his thumb— Hamilton Basso


thumbed; thumbing; thumbs

Definition of thumb (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to turn over pages thumb through a book
2 : to travel by thumbing rides : hitchhike thumbed across the country

transitive verb

1 : to request or obtain (a ride) in a passing automobile by signaling with the thumb
2a : to leaf through (pages) with the thumb : turn
b : to soil or wear by or as if by repeated thumbing a badly thumbed book
thumb one's nose
1 : to express disdain or defiance thumb their nose at opulenceSales Management
2 : to place the thumb at one's nose and extend the fingers as a gesture of scorn or defiance

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Synonyms for thumb

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of thumb in a Sentence

Noun a little girl sucking her thumb I accidentally cut my thumb. My mitten has a hole in the thumb. Verb I thumbed a ride to school. He thumbed his way to New York. He thumbed across the country.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Another time, Lulu’s thumb to my foot set my mind adrift to layers of white fabric—first the medical curtain separating my mom from the rest of the ICU, then the hospital blanket over her body—that gave way to her ballooned foot. Anna Haines, Vogue, 15 June 2021 Cubs manager David Ross doesn’t sound too concerned about Báez’s thumb issue keeping him sidelined long. Meghan Montemurro,, 15 June 2021 Check doneness by squeezing between your thumb and forefinger: asparagus or okra should be gently yielding. New York Times, 15 June 2021 Injuries: For the Lynx, Natalie Achonwa (knee), Aerial Powers (thumb), Jessica Shepard (groin) and Rennia Davis (foot) are out. Star Tribune, 14 June 2021 Experts say Massospora does indeed infect the thumb-sized insect, secreting mind-altering chemicals that impact male mating behavior. Miriam Fauzia, USA TODAY, 12 June 2021 These have a thumb lock to minimize injuries and a cool mesh palm. Chris Hachey, BGR, 10 June 2021 Looking to sit in the sun or splash in some water around Michigan's thumb this summer? Minnah Arshad, Detroit Free Press, 7 June 2021 And against all odds, Luan seems to have slashed and stabbed his way to freedom out from under Mosi’s thumb. Roxana Hadadi, Vulture, 7 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb That surge in interest in records and cassettes bodes well for the annual celebration of indie music stores, those local music hubs where people can thumb through albums, CDs and cassettes, and talk music. David Sharp, Star Tribune, 8 June 2021 Her sister, who had been allowed into the hospital room, picked up her mother’s old Bible, and Ligoretti watched via video call as her mother tried to thumb through the pages, her hands shaking. Los Angeles Times, 30 Apr. 2021 And that’s why people who thumb their noses at it have to be prosecuted. Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 12 Mar. 2021 Their decision is not to thumb their nose at the governor. Gillian Flaccus, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Jan. 2021 More than half the voters — 52 percent — voted to leave, an emblem of dissatisfaction and disconnection, a chance to thumb a collective nose against the elite. New York Times, 26 Dec. 2020 But some restaurants continue to thumb their nose at the restrictions not fearing any repercussions. Kevin Bessler, Washington Examiner, 2 Dec. 2020 As if to thumb its nose at regulators readying imminent antitrust suits, Facebook snuck in an acquisition yesterday. Robert Hackett, Fortune, 1 Dec. 2020 To thumb their nose at the authorities, Moser made the most Swiss watch imaginable by setting real Swiss cheese in a resin for the case, adding a red dial with white markers to evoke the Swiss flag, and making a strap from domestic cowhide. Daniel Bentley, Fortune, 21 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'thumb.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of thumb


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1647, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2a

History and Etymology for thumb


Middle English thoume, thoumbe, from Old English thūma; akin to Old High German thūmo thumb, Latin tumēre to swell

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Time Traveler for thumb

Time Traveler

The first known use of thumb was before the 12th century

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Statistics for thumb

Last Updated

19 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Thumb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for thumb



English Language Learners Definition of thumb

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the short, thick finger on the side of your hand
: the part of a glove or mitten that covers a thumb



English Language Learners Definition of thumb (Entry 2 of 2)

informal : to ask for or get a ride in a passing vehicle by sticking out your arm with your thumb up as you stand on the side of the road


\ ˈthəm How to pronounce thumb (audio) \

Kids Definition of thumb

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the short thick finger next to the forefinger
2 : the part of a glove covering the thumb


thumbed; thumbing

Kids Definition of thumb (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to turn the pages of quickly with the thumb
2 : to seek or get (a ride) in a passing automobile by signaling with the thumb


\ ˈthəm How to pronounce thumb (audio) \

Medical Definition of thumb

: the short and thick first or most preaxial digit of the human hand that differs from the other fingers in having only two phalanges, in having greater freedom of movement, and in being opposable to the other fingers


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