\ 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 Ant and Alibaba together have allowed hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers and businesses to make a purchase, deposit money, execute an investment or take out a loan with a swipe of the thumb. Lingling Wei, WSJ, "China Eyes Shrinking Jack Ma’s Business Empire," 29 Dec. 2020 Remember the rule of thumb: extend your arm and hold up your thumb. Barry Willette,, "Follow rules for ethical nature viewing | Opinion," 17 Dec. 2020 Next, place your off hand on top of the scope, with the fatty heel of the thumb on the top turret, or the side parallax-adjustment turret if the scope has one. T. Edward Nickens, Field & Stream, "10 Modern Classic Hunting and Fishing Tips," 26 Nov. 2020 Some rules of thumb included avoiding solid black fabrics, which soak up light in a scene. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "How Mank costume designer Trish Summerville recreated classic Hollywood," 20 Nov. 2020 But as Celik extended his arm to wipe her face, the child opened her eyes and grabbed hold of his thumb., "2 Children Pulled Alive in Dramatic Turkey Quake Rescues," 2 Nov. 2020 If you're still tempted to take on the pandemic in your costume, the experts offer a few rules of thumb that can help you to avoid causing someone unnecessary pain. Molly Longman,, "Even Dark Humour Scholars Say COVID-19 Costumes May Be A Bad Idea," 29 Oct. 2020 Use limb crotches, or place your hand on a trunk and your gun in the web of your thumb. Johnny Carrol Sain, Outdoor Life, "A Good Squirrel Hunt Will Prepare You for a Lifetime of Bigger Game," 27 Oct. 2020 Unlike any pair of vintage motorcycle gloves, the tips of the thumb, index, and middle fingers of this pair are lined with touch screen-compatible tips to ensure sustained warmth while staying connected on the go without sacrificing esthetics. Popular Science, "Gloves that make excellent gifts for just about anybody," 17 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb More than half the voters — 52 percent — voted to leave, an emblem of dissatisfaction and disconnection, a chance to thumb a collective nose against the elite. New York Times, "The Brexit Fight, Through a Reporter’s Prism of a Changed Continent," 26 Dec. 2020 But some restaurants continue to thumb their nose at the restrictions not fearing any repercussions. Kevin Bessler, Washington Examiner, "Pritzker asks for federal help for Illinois restaurants and bars," 2 Dec. 2020 As if to thumb its nose at regulators readying imminent antitrust suits, Facebook snuck in an acquisition yesterday. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "Facebook’s latest acquisition pushes outside its comfort zone," 1 Dec. 2020 To thumb their nose at the authorities, Moser made the most Swiss watch imaginable by setting real Swiss cheese in a resin for the case, adding a red dial with white markers to evoke the Swiss flag, and making a strap from domestic cowhide. Daniel Bentley, Fortune, "A Q&A with the provocative mind behind watchmaker H. Moser," 21 Sep. 2020 North Texas' housing market continued to thumb its nose at the pandemic in August, with home sales up 11% from a year ago. Steve Brown, Dallas News, "North Texas home sales make up for pandemic losses with August surge," 8 Sep. 2020 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

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

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Thumb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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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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