\ 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 Rashed played the final two games wearing a cast to protect the thumb. oregonlive, "Oregon State linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. motivated to make a senior-year statement: ‘I promised myself first round’," 8 Jan. 2020 There’s sweet Shelby, under her husband’s thumb but yearning for more freedom. Matthew J. Palm,, "Mad Cow Theatre’s ‘Spitfire Grill’ sizzles with hope, charity and love | Review," 7 Dec. 2019 Tough choices had to be made and, ultimately, Legend gave the thumbs up to Breman. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Will Breman Impresses Taylor Swift With Ed Sheeran Cover on 'The Voice': Watch," 5 Nov. 2019 This is one that, in humans, extends the thumb away from the body, a motion called abduction. National Geographic, "This bizarre primate has a newly discovered digit," 21 Oct. 2019 Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno gives the thumbs up to supporters gathered at Independence square, from the government palace’s balcony in Quito, Ecuador, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Ecuador president proposes new finance reforms after turmoil," 18 Oct. 2019 Spruces have gotten the thumbs up just seven times, and pines only once. Jill Gleeson, Country Living, "The White House Christmas Tree Tradition Goes Back Farther Than You Might Think," 19 Sep. 2019 Yet the Republican Party is so under the thumb of the National Rifle Association that even the mildest, least intrusive gun control measures do not get a hearing. Eugene Robinson, The Mercury News, "Robinson: Sensible gun control requires taking control of the Senate," 7 Aug. 2019 Home to the Dow Chemical Company, Midland (as the name suggests) is in the center of the state’s mitten shape, between the thumb and pointer finger. Ann Votaw, Marie Claire, "I Went to the Harvard of Santa Schools to Become Mrs. Claus," 20 Dec. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb His daughter Maui was pretty stoic, looking around silently and thumbing the airline's safety poster. Ryan Prior, CNN, "A Boeing 777 lands safely back in Los Angeles after flames shoot from an engine," 22 Nov. 2019 So much so, that she and her daughter Mila were moved to tears one night while thumbing through E.B. White's Charlotte's Web together. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'Today' Star Jenna Bush Hager Shares the Touching Moment With Her Daughter That Made Her Cry," 2 Nov. 2019 One flagged down a MOMA employee and then thumbed in the direction of the premier temple of modernism. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, "MOMA’s Heady Introduction to Betye Saar, “The Conscience of the Art World”," 24 Oct. 2019 As much as my ideal Sunday involves spending hours in the nail salon aimlessly thumbing through magazines, the reality is my weekends lately have hardly afforded me time for a 10-minute face mask, let alone a deluxe mani-pedi. Glamour, "30 Minimalist Nail Art Ideas That Are Anything but Boring," 1 Oct. 2019 Wiseman and the university had essentially thumbed their nose at the NCAA. Teresa M. Walker, The Denver Post, "James Wiseman withdraws lawsuit, Memphis works on eligibility," 14 Nov. 2019 But Saturday, Alabama Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley was determined to undo or stop all those things, thumbing her nose at the national party and all but daring it to bring the hammer down on Alabama. Kyle Whitmire, al, "Alabama Democrat chairwoman waves a middle finger at the DNC," 14 Oct. 2019 People are thumbing and fingering themselves through life and gleefully paying for it. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: Tech businesses have triumphed in controlling the masses," 4 June 2019 Determined to thumb their noses at Chinese President Xi Jinping, protesters ignored a security clampdown that saw nearly four dozen subway stations closed. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Hong Kong protester shot as China marks its 70th anniversary," 1 Oct. 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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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

18 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Thumb.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 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

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).


not to be intimidated or subdued

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