\ 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

There’s no timetable for his return — and the Raptors are still without Patrick McCaw, who’s sidelined with a thumb injury. Tim Reynolds, The Seattle Times, "Red-hot Magic set to face Raptors in Round 1 of NBA playoffs," 12 Apr. 2019 Meanwhile, during spring practice, Tagovailoa suffered a thumb injury. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The Quarterback Making Alabama Scarier Than Ever," 9 Oct. 2018 While clicking through Snapchat the other day, an ad for Merck’s new Versed campaign for Gardasil, its vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), stopped my thumb in its tracks. Ashley Andreou, STAT, "New Gardasil ad campaign gets it (mostly) right. It shouldn’t have taken a decade," 18 June 2018 But Omar’s quick thumbs also have caused problems for herself and Democratic leadership. Amy Forliti, The Seattle Times, "Twitter dustup, apology not firsts for Minnesota Rep. Omar," 12 Feb. 2019 Gus’s thumb is blistered and sore as a result of playing. Steve Brykman, Ars Technica, "Forget Fortnite—my son is still obsessed with Minecraft," 16 Dec. 2018 In addition to different designs on each nail (including Tom Brady's number, of course), the Patriots logo is cleverly split up on the thumbs. Marci Robin, Good Housekeeping, "13 Best Nail Art Ideas for Super Bowl LIII," 22 Jan. 2019 Some of the only buttons to be found are the thumb dials on the steering wheel, another echo of the Model 3. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "The all-electric Rivian R1T is a dream truck for adventurers," 26 Nov. 2018 There are four customizable buttons, including one for adjusting pointer speed on the fly and two on the left side that sit in a natural place for the thumb. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "The Ars Holiday Gift Guide 2018—good tech for the home and home office," 19 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 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

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

26 Apr 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).


a sum of money that is sent as a payment

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