\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for thumb

Synonyms: Verb

hitch, hitchhike

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Briefly: Manager Bob Melvin said that catcher Josh Phegley (thumb) will start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas on Sunday. ... Susan Slusser,, "Bout of flu provides A’s Yusmeiro Petit a little break," 10 Aug. 2019 In the second photo, the former first daughter appears to be chowing down on some of her surprise goodies and holds two thumbs up, while Barbara snuggles Hal and Henry, 41, smiles off to the side. Joelle Goldstein,, "Jenna Hager Bush's Newborn Son Gets His First Visitor Who Comes Bearing a Delicious Surprise," 6 Aug. 2019 In his punderful package Bill included a green-roofed park protection area with thumb tacks inside. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Our language is moonstruck with lunar words," 3 Aug. 2019 Phegley has a contusion on his left (catching) thumb that necessitated the IL stint. Michael Nowels, The Mercury News, "Athletics put Laureano and Phegley on injured list, recall Martini and Taylor," 31 July 2019 Yet the magazine’s final moment of thumb-in-the-eye relevance—this May, when Donald Trump compared Pete Buttigieg to Alfred E. Neuman—emphasized just how deeply Mad has tunnelled its way into the culture, waiting to inspire anew. Jordan Orlando, The New Yorker, "A World Without Mad Magazine," 25 July 2019 There will be others who embrace it as a thumb in the eye of current sensitivities, and others who insist the movie has no politics at all. New York Times, "‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’ Review: We Lost It at the Movies," 24 July 2019 Police noticed a cut on the victim’s right thumb and red marks on the left side of her face, according to the statement. Mary Grace Keller,, "Westminster man charged with assault for allegedly slapping woman holding baby," 23 July 2019 Every night, the moment provisions for patients’ sandwiches appear in a common area, the doctor does, too: Snapping open pop cans with a thick thumb, smearing mayonnaise, stacking sandwiches—a hand like a trowel. Abigail Deutsch, Harper's magazine, "Bette on the Blues," 22 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Later, Bruce Arena stubbornly believed in his own genius and thumbed his nose at anyone with questions or concerns. Brian Straus,, "There's No Denial Among USMNT Coaches, Players About Need to Be Better," 2 July 2019 Yet, police agencies up and down the state are thumbing their nose at the new law, shamefully covering up for cops. Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards, The Mercury News, "Editorial: California police stonewalling release of rogue cops’ records," 2 July 2019 But Bird isn’t thumbing his nose at critics or their work. Allegra Frank, Vox, "All 21 Pixar movies, definitively ranked," 27 June 2019 For more than two years, President Trump has thumbed his nose at the American people in flagrant violation of the law. Ann E. Marimow,, "Blumenthal-led lawsuit against Trump can proceed, federal judge rules," 25 June 2019 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about thumb

Statistics for thumb

Last Updated

16 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for thumb

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to move or obtain by small maneuvers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!