\ 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

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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 Have a friend stand 40 feet away from you with the swivel clenched between his thumb and forefinger. Mark Hicks, Field & Stream, "How to Get Better Hooksets," 22 June 2020 But Fournier's response stuck out like a sore thumb. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, "Wayne State president rebukes athletic director's statement: Athletes can protest, kneel," 17 June 2020 Deputies fingerprinted Garcia’s right thumb, handcuffed him and marched him down the hall to Sobering Cell 1. Thalia Beaty, ProPublica, "Somebody’s Gotta Help Me”," 16 June 2020 In a land where the only surviving native terrestrial mammal species are two thumb-sized bats, these invasive species have decimated native bird populations for centuries, causing dozens of extinctions of species found nowhere else on Earth. Mara Johnson-groh, Popular Science, "New Zealand’s bold rat-control campaign sees its first wave of successes," 26 May 2020 Kerl's body cam video shows Danquirs Franklin slowly bringing the gun out of his clothing, holding the top of the weapon by his thumb and forefinger, with the barrel pointed toward him and the handgrip coming into view first, the lawsuit says. Mallika Kallingal, CNN, "Mother of African American man killed by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, files wrongful death lawsuit," 12 June 2020 The left side also features a wide trough for your thumb. Benjamin Levin, CNN Underscored, "The best ergonomic mouse of 2020," 10 June 2020 Entering the hiatus, Doncic was averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game while battling ankle, thumb and wrist injuries throughout February and March. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, "Luka Doncic ‘is not in the best shape’ before the Mavs restart, but his trainer in Slovenia isn’t worried," 10 June 2020 Make a 2-inch-wide indentation in the center of each with your thumb to prevent the burgers from bulging when grilled., "Recipe: Ground Pork Bacon Burgers," 8 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Europe’s frenemies | Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has consistently thumbed his nose at the European Union, which in turn criticizes him for cronyism and undermining the rule of law. Rosalind Mathieson,, "A Response Designed to Avoid a War," 10 May 2020 The Conway knot, which has 11 crossings, had thumbed its nose at mathematicians for decades. Quanta Magazine, "Graduate Student Solves Decades-Old Conway Knot Problem," 19 May 2020 Robin Dillon-Merrill reached for her phone at 7 a.m., thumbed the screen and refreshed the death toll once again. Jessica Contrera, Washington Post, "As the country moves to reopen, Americans weigh necessity, fear and longing," 24 Apr. 2020 Big thumbs up to that and to narrowly averting catastrophe. Kat Bein, Billboard, "The Year in Diplo Photos," 30 Dec. 2019 Scientists are thumbing their noses at responsible parents everywhere by putting cheap plastic in the microwave. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Here's What Happened When Chemical Engineers Put Cheap Plastic in a Microwave," 29 Apr. 2020 While thumbing through the photos from her January shoot, Candace started to get emotional. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Candace Cameron Bure Emotionally Recalls Getting Rejected By a Magazine During Her 'Full House' Days," 25 Apr. 2020 To thumb your nose at the social distancing and health and safety requirements is not persuading people. Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'It's about basic freedoms': Protesters poised to converge on Madison Friday to oppose Tony Evers' stay-at-home order," 23 Apr. 2020 But Ducey at least had ordered shutdowns two weeks earlier in counties with heavy outbreaks and did not go out of his way to thumb his nose at the dangers and show the hostility toward prevention as DeSantis did. Henry Schulman,, "Giants Splash: Do not reward Florida with baseball after its coronavirus response," 22 Apr. 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

30 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Thumb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for thumb


How to pronounce thumb (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for thumb

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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

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