\ 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

Guard Joshua Garnett has played in three of 11 preseason games and seven of 32 regular-season games since 2017 because of injuries to his knee, toe, thumb and finger. Eric Branch,, "For 49ers’ Joshua Garnett, injuries could be reason for exit," 28 Aug. 2019 In his stateroom, Stanclik held the crumbling part between his thumb and forefinger. Author: Richard Read, Anchorage Daily News, "Meet the icebreaker Polar Star, the neglected stepchild of the U.S. military industrial complex," 17 Aug. 2019 His tail at the base is larger than my two hands, thumbs and forefingers placed together. John Christopher Fine,, "Rejoice as turtles make their return | Opinion," 15 Aug. 2019 Down the hall a few hours later, a bunch of voice-over first-timers crowd into Studio B. A teenager, young adults, guys pushing 50,they're all tense, arms crossed, fidgeting thumbs and bouncing legs. Travis Deshong,, "In the age of ear buds and audiobooks, they want to be the voices in your head," 10 Aug. 2019 Julian Edelman, who has yet to practice because of a broken left thumb, and first-round pick N’Keal Harry (all 6-4, 225 pounds of him) are the only locks to make the opening roster. Jim Mcbride,, "Patriots sign wide receiver Cam Meredith," 2 Aug. 2019 Gardner points out controllers for her thumb and jaw. Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "What it's like to see a blinking, breathing 'Jurassic World' dinosaur up close," 31 July 2019 For example, Google has demoed rubbing your thumb and index finger together to simulate turning a dial on a smartwatch. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "The Google Pixel 4 will unlock using a face scan," 29 July 2019 As originally pitched, Soli was capable of detecting a number of fine hand gestures, like tapping your thumb and index finger together for a virtual button press or rubbing the two fingers together to scroll or turn a virtual dial. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Google announces the Pixel 4 will have FaceID, radar-powered gestures," 29 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Bashing Lam, chiding the police, and thumbing noses at Beijing have become the norm for venting deep-seated fears and frustrations in Hong Kong. Christine Loh, Time, "Hong Kong People Know That They Are Better Than Their Current Politics," 7 Sep. 2019 No more hours thumbing through a 300-page wedding planning book for etiquette advice and logistical tips. Riley & Grey, Harper's BAZAAR, "When It Comes to Wedding Planning, Is Instagram the New Pinterest?," 30 July 2019 Rock has always been about adolescent rage, thumbing noses at taboos and breaking stuff. John Adamian,, "Shock-rock original Alice Cooper to play Foxwoods," 28 June 2019 Barbera has built his reputation, in part, by thumbing his nose at industry convention. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, ""Completely Tone Deaf": How Venice Became the F-You Film Festival," 23 Aug. 2019 NEWS The Lion King roared at its world premiere overnight, as the stars came out and the critics gave an immediate thumbs up. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Beyonce, Chance the Rapper, Meghan Trainor and More Hit the Red Carpet for 'The Lion King' Premiere: See the Pics," 10 July 2019 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

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

13 Sep 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).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

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