\ ˈthəm How to pronounce thumb (audio) \

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 : 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

hitch, hitchhike

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Examples of thumb in a Sentence


a little girl sucking her thumb I accidentally cut my thumb. My mitten has a hole in the thumb.


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

Choi’s thumb hovered over her two options: accept or decline. Washington Post, "How AirDrop requests have become Gen Z’s version of passing notes," 10 July 2019 There are some gestures that can have a full meaning even in the absence of speech, including the thumbs up 👍, the OK sign 👌, and good luck 🤞. Gestures like these are known as emblems, some of which are found in the emoji palette. Lauren Gawne, Quartz, "Is an emoji a word or a gesture? Both.," 6 July 2019 The room was to have a thumb scanner so Ajayi would be the only person allowed to enter. Wire Service, The Mercury News, "Mackenzie Lueck suspect wanted to build ‘way too weird’ secret room, contractor says," 3 July 2019 Brian Wolf, a contractor, told CNN that Ajayi asked him to build a soundproof room in his home with a secret, thumb print protected door. Chris Boyette, CNN, "Prosecutors in the Mackenzie Lueck case have been granted an extension to file charges," 3 July 2019 Why is Luis Guzmán carrying around Ben Kingsley’s thumb? Darren Franich,, "Perpetual Grace, LTD is a scuzzy-dreamy border noir worth the price of Epix Now," 28 June 2019 The tip of a 2-year-old Flagler County boy’s thumb was severed after his mother, upset after being awakened by deputies, slammed a sliding glass door on his hand, the sheriff’s office said. Stephen Ruiz,, "Florida mom arrested after slammed door severs part of 2-year-old son’s thumb," 27 June 2019 Hurley’s thesis is that our mind continuously makes rule-of-thumb conjectures about what will be experienced next and about the intentions of others. Giovanni Sabato, Scientific American, "What’s So Funny? The Science of Why We Laugh," 26 June 2019 Enriquez said of his travel plans, rubbing his index finger and thumb together in the universal symbol of under the table payoffs. Dudley Althaus,, "Migration slows in Mexico. But will it last?," 23 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In many pieces Hammons thumbs his nose at the art world. Sharon Mizota,, "If an artist sets up a homeless camp inside a blue-chip art gallery, does anyone care?," 18 June 2019 But the candidates have thumbed their noses at all this effort by putting so much emphasis on tax cuts for the well-off. The Economist, "The question is not who will lead the Conservative Party, but whether it will survive," 13 June 2019 Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, thumbed their noses at the victims of Venezuelan atrocities last week with an official trip to Cuba—the first ever by a member of the British royal family. Mary Anastasia O’grady, WSJ, "Prince Charles and the Torturers," 31 Mar. 2019 Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman saluted Wheeles with an emoji thumbs up. Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana trooper tickets slow driver on I-65 and Twitter rejoices," 18 June 2018 Even so, Google should be bracing for one of the most serious anti-monopoly challenges in its history — not a great time to be thumbing its nose at regulators. Russell Brandom, The Verge, "Google’s bad day in Congress came at the worst possible time," 6 Sep. 2018 But the House passed a bill and the Senate came within one John McCain thumbs down of passing its own. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Republicans don’t care what you think," 6 Oct. 2018 And will leader Kim Jong Un use the occasion to thumb his nose at Washington by displaying missiles North Korea claims are capable of striking the American heartland? Eric Talmadge, Fox News, "As talks with US stall, North Korea preps military parade," 6 Sep. 2018 The size alone will shock you, but really, thumbing through each season's issue is an experience unto itself, akin to somehow stumbling upon Gwyneth Paltrow's diary or, say, being asked to house-sit for Kim Kardashian West. Candace Braun Davison, House Beautiful, "12 Things Everyone Thinks When Flipping Through The Restoration Hardware Catalog," 2 Aug. 2018

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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Statistics for thumb

Last Updated

19 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for thumb

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on thumb

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with thumb

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for thumb

Spanish Central: Translation of thumb

Nglish: Translation of thumb for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of thumb for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about thumb

Comments on thumb

What made you want to look up thumb? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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