thumb·​screw ˈthəm-ˌskrü How to pronounce thumbscrew (audio)
: an instrument of torture for compressing the thumb by a screw
: 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 The collar is metal, tightens with a thumbscrew, and rotates freely without detent stops. PCMAG, 1 Feb. 2024 In it, the strip lays out various torture methods listed by pain level: thumbscrews, the rack, the pillory, the Iron Maiden. Rachel Desantis, Peoplemag, 12 Sep. 2023 Lock the cable in place by tightening the retaining thumbscrew. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, 10 Aug. 2021 So was the Labour Party’s use of thumbscrews on its wavering MPs. The Economist, 19 Oct. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'thumbscrew.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1788, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of thumbscrew was in 1788

Dictionary Entries Near thumbscrew

Cite this Entry

“Thumbscrew.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2024.

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