twid·​dle | \ ˈtwi-dᵊl How to pronounce twiddle (audio) \
twiddled; twiddling\ ˈtwid-​liŋ How to pronounce twiddle (audio) , ˈtwi-​dᵊl-​iŋ \

Definition of twiddle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to play negligently with something : fiddle
2 : to turn or jounce lightly twiddles round and round in the water— J. B. S. Haldane

transitive verb

: to rotate lightly or idly twiddled his pen
twiddle one's thumbs
: to spend time idly : do nothing



Definition of twiddle (Entry 2 of 2)

: turn, twist

Examples of twiddle in a Sentence

Verb Just twiddle the dial on the radio a bit for better reception. Twiddle the knob on the telescope until things are in focus. She twiddled her pen while she talked on the phone. She twiddled with her pen while she talked on the phone.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Clayster, with nothing to do but twiddle his Call of Duty thumbs, decides to do a domination art project on the A Flag on Hackney Yard. Sean Collins, Dallas News, "From CoD undertaker to unselfish play: The 10 best moments from the Dallas Empire’s 2020 season," 31 Aug. 2020 The perception among some people that DNR employees twiddle their thumbs all day isn’t the case. Star Tribune, "Chris Niskanen, newspaper columnist turned DNR official, is off to the next challenge," 29 Aug. 2020 The pipeline development analysts cannot afford to sit twiddling their thumbs. Eric M. Stone, STAT, "Covid-19 is changing the game for health care companies and investors," 5 June 2020 While athletes all over the world are twiddling their thumbs, she's been rushed off her feet trying to help them get through a period of relentless uncertainty. Don Riddell, CNN, "Men and women footballers experiencing 'glaring' rise in mental health issues during lockdown," 22 Apr. 2020 Stylistically, the president himself seemed ill at ease in the formal setting, offering a monotone and labored delivery from behind the Resolute Desk, twiddling his thumbs and even, in moments, struggling to read words on the teleprompter. Author: Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Anchorage Daily News, "Ten minutes at the teleprompter: Inside Trump’s failed attempt to calm coronavirus fears," 13 Mar. 2020 Any footballer who spends the better part of seven years not actually playing any football must surely have discovered a different past-time to get him through those long, arduous weeks sitting on a wad of cash and twiddling his thumbs?, "Great British Bake Off: 5 Footballers Who Would Without Doubt 100% Win the Competition," 4 Sep. 2019 But over time, higher prices cause less demand from riders and more supply of drivers, so drivers end up spending more of their time twiddling their thumbs waiting for a gig, leaving hourly earnings little changed. Neil Irwin, New York Times, "Maybe We’re Not All Going to Be Gig Economy Workers After All," 15 Sep. 2019 Mylan is a reminder that Allergan can’t twiddle its thumbs forever. Washington Post, "Epipen Parent’s Faceplant Is a Cautionary Tale for Botox Maker," 9 May 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Pilots sit behind a modern avionic dashboard and twiddle control sticks to direct advanced, swiveling engines. Andrew Van Dam,, "The blimp industry is changing, right over our noses," 12 June 2018

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


circa 1540, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1774, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for twiddle


origin unknown

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Time Traveler for twiddle

Time Traveler

The first known use of twiddle was circa 1540

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Cite this Entry

“Twiddle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for twiddle



English Language Learners Definition of twiddle

: to turn (something) back and forth slightly


twid·​dle | \ ˈtwi-dᵊl How to pronounce twiddle (audio) \
twiddled; twiddling

Kids Definition of twiddle

: twirl entry 1 I twiddled my thumbs.

More from Merriam-Webster on twiddle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for twiddle

Nglish: Translation of twiddle for Spanish Speakers

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