thumb·​screw | \ ˈthəm-ˌskrü How to pronounce thumbscrew (audio) \

Definition of thumbscrew

1 : an instrument of torture for compressing the thumb by a screw
2 : a screw having a flat-sided or knurled head so that it may be turned by the thumb and index finger

Illustration of thumbscrew

Illustration of thumbscrew

thumbscrew 2

Examples of thumbscrew in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web So was the Labour Party’s use of thumbscrews on its wavering MPs. The Economist, "MPs kick the Brexit can down the road. Again," 19 Oct. 2019 Lock the cable in place by tightening the retaining thumbscrew. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How to Unclog a Drain," 26 Jan. 2019 The Cleveland Play House production is an exercise in increasing tension, like thumbscrews slowly tightening. Andrea Simakis,, "Ayad Akhtar's hostage drama 'The Invisible Hand' at Cleveland Play House: There will be blood, on all sides (review)," 28 Feb. 2018 Nervous scientists twisted thumbscrews and made final adjustments of their costly instruments along the coast, from Point Loma to Ensenada. Magner White,, "From the archives: When it was midnight at midday!," 17 Aug. 2017 Qualcomm CEO not optimistic about Nokia talks [Reuters] CEO Paul Jacobs turns the thumbscrews on Nokia, which would probably very much like to renew its licensing agreements with chipmaker and patent house Qualcomm. Rob Beschizza, WIRED, "Tuesday News and CTIA Roundup," 27 Mar. 2007

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'thumbscrew.' 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 thumbscrew

1788, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for thumbscrew

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The first known use of thumbscrew was in 1788

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Cite this Entry

“Thumbscrew.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2020.

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How to pronounce thumbscrew (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of thumbscrew

: a device used in the past to torture people by crushing their thumbs
: a type of screw with a flat-sided head that can be held and turned with your thumb and fingers

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