thumb

1 of 2

noun

plural thumbs
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

thumb

2 of 2

verb

thumbed; thumbing; thumbs

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
2
a
: to leaf through (pages) with the thumb : turn
b
: to soil or wear by or as if by repeated thumbing
a badly thumbed book
Phrases
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 thumbHamilton Basso
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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
As the sole Caucasian employee of Tokyo’s largest newspaper, Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort) — a real-life journalist and executive producer of the show, which is loosely based on his memoir of the same name — stood out like a sore thumb. Alison Herman, Variety, 8 Feb. 2024 Using the thumb and index finger of your other hand, press the pastry around your finger. Sheena Chihak, Better Homes & Gardens, 1 Feb. 2024 At three of the facilities, he and Yu are pictured giving a thumbs up. Pei-Lin Wu, Washington Post, 1 Feb. 2024 The Japanese government does not help matters by putting its thumb on the scales in favor of older and bigger companies. Richard Katz, Foreign Affairs, 31 Jan. 2024 Doncic finished with 28 points, 17 assists and 19 rebounds, but the Mavericks struggled to find an offensive rhythm with Kyrie Irving sidelined for a third straight game with a thumb injury. Chris Biderman, Sacramento Bee, 28 Jan. 2024 Her thumbs and pointer fingers have a flame-like design with metallic gems; her middle and ring fingers have a shimmery base with veiny, silver, French tips; and her pinkies have an abstract foil finish. Marci Robin, Allure, 22 Jan. 2024 After the San Francisco Giants gave the thumbs down on his physical, the shortstop didn’t hit for a month. Betsy Helfand, Twin Cities, 29 Jan. 2024 The top two buttons are meant to be operated by your thumb, and the bottom two by your fingers. PCMAG, 26 Jan. 2024
Verb
Or maybe, like Larry opening up a spite store at the end of Season Ten, David is moving in the same general direction as a way to thumb his nose at all the viewers who’ve been whining about the end of Seinfeld for the last 26 years. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 29 Jan. 2024 Like other top categories — best-selling fiction, religious texts, books on knitting and crochet — cookbooks tend to be thumbed repeatedly over time. Danny Freedman, Washington Post, 3 Jan. 2024 Taylor Swift's instantly iconic red coat is getting a furry thumbs up from another red icon. Erin Clack, Peoplemag, 4 Dec. 2023 Two years later, Turkey again thumbed its nose at the United States by attacking Kurdish forces in Syria, American allies who had just helped defeat the Islamic State there. Fareed Zakaria, Foreign Affairs, 12 Dec. 2023 Bingo lunged forward, thrusting her arm out and thumb down. Alyson Krueger Martina Tuaty, New York Times, 12 Dec. 2023 People in the local office garb of slacks and zip vests brushed past, thumbing their smartphones. Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, 16 Oct. 2023 Long-press a message to give it a quick thumbs up, thumbs down, heart, or other reaction. Kegan Mooney, PCMAG, 8 Sep. 2023 Elsewhere in the mob, Ira Kravchenko embraced her 6-year-old daughter, Nicole, who delivered an initial review of her subway-school experience: thumbs up. Heidi Levine, Washington Post, 5 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'thumb.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

First Known Use

Noun

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

Verb

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near thumb

Cite this Entry

“Thumb.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thumb. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

thumb

1 of 2 noun
1
a
: the short thick first finger of the human hand next to the index finger
b
: the similar structure in lower animals
2
: the part of a glove or mitten that covers the thumb

thumb

2 of 2 verb
1
: to turn pages with the thumb
thumb through a book
2
: to seek or get a ride in a passing automobile by sticking out one's thumb

Medical Definition

thumb

noun
: 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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