\ˈthəm \

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

Coach Marvin Lewis said Dalton’s thumb is expected to be healed before the start of offseason workouts. Joe Kay, The Seattle Times, "Bengals’ Andy Dalton out for season with thumb injury," 27 Nov. 2018 For the most part, though, a game that only 1 in 1,000 people would consider playable sets a good rule-of-thumb threshold for what deserves removal from Steam. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "What makes a “troll game”? Valve tries for a Steam-wide definition," 6 Sep. 2018 That bill actually failed days before McCain cast his famous thumbs-down vote on July 28 that Lewis references. Sarah Kliff, Vox, "No, John McCain did not make Republicans lose the House," 12 Nov. 2018 Americans anywhere could flip through the four-pound, 1,400-page Bible of consumerism, thumb through more than 100,000 items, and have any one of them delivered to their door. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "How Sears Kit Homes changed housing," 16 Oct. 2018 This mouse is designed to fit comfortably in your hand and quickly respond to your touch, with thumb buttons and a scroll wheel to help navigate. Alexandria Haslam, PCWorld, "Upgrade your keyboard, mouse, and webcam for cheap in Amazon's Logitech blowout sale," 26 Sep. 2018 Drini Gjoka, a 19-year-old who was at the tournament, tweeted that he was hit by a bullet in his thumb during the shooting. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "A 22-Year-Old and a 27-Year-Old Were Reportedly Killed in the Jacksonville Madden Shooting," 27 Aug. 2018 But Story tore a ligament in his thumb a couple of weeks prior to that trip and was on the disabled list. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Quite a Story: Irving native leads Rockies past Rangers at his 'Yankee Stadium'," 15 June 2018 After going to the doctor, she was diagnosed with melanoma in her thumb, resulting in the loss of her fingernail and a thick scar. Chloe Metzger, Marie Claire, "How This Woman's Acrylic Nails Reportedly Caused Melanoma​," 14 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The prestigious New Yorker magazine unveiled its latest cover on Thursday, depicting an illustration of President Trump falling down the Trump Tower escalator and landing flat on his face but still managing to give his signature thumbs up. Brian Flood, Fox News, "New Yorker unveils polarizing cover depicting Trump falling down escalator onto his face," 19 July 2018 For that book, Mr. Stricherz spent 17 years thumbing through more than 100,000 slides gathered from midcentury American families, yet found fewer than 100 self-portraits. Alex Williams, New York Times, "How the Selfie Conquered the World," 2 Mar. 2018 Some thanks Big thumbs up to those of you who offered tips about my trip to Jekyll Island, including restaurants to eat at. John Cherwa,, "Racing! Happy Fourth of July," 4 July 2018 All had out-of-town landlords who thumbed their noses at codes meant to keep their properties safe and secure. Ronnie Polaneczky,, "L&I gets it right with developer of 'potential death trap' | Ronnie Polaneczky," 10 May 2018 Brown and other California Democrats, who've repeatedly clashed with Trump on immigration policy, saw the move as Trump thumbing their nose at him. John Wagner,, "Trump resumes war of words with California governor over border troops," 17 Apr. 2018 Brown and other California Democrats, who have repeatedly clashed with Trump on immigration policy, saw the move as Trump thumbing his nose at them. John Wagner, Washington Post, "After a very brief respite, Trump resumes his war of words with California Gov. Jerry Brown," 17 Apr. 2018 The spree began in February 1972, when Yvonne Weber and Maureen Sterling, both 13, were thumbing rides on Guerneville Road. Katie Dowd, San Francisco Chronicle, "10 Bay Area cold cases that remain unsolved," 29 Apr. 2018 The Justice Department is thumbing its nose at Congress. Fox News, "Gowdy to Schiff: GOP doesn't give a damn what you think," 6 July 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

6 Dec 2018

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)

: 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 \

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 \

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).


a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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