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thumb

Line breaks: thumb
Pronunciation: /θʌm
 
/

Definition of thumb in English:

noun

1The short, thick first digit of the human hand, set lower and apart from the other four and opposable to them.
Example sentences
  • The most commonly affected digits are the thumb and index finger.
  • This section passes through the four fingers, the thumb having been seen for the last time in the preceding section.
  • Using both hands, each testicle should be gently rolled between the thumb and index finger to find any lumps or irregular areas.
1.1The digit of primates or other mammals that corresponds to the human thumb.
Example sentences
  • The thumb and toe claws have an extra talon, which is unique in bats.
  • The forefeet have 5 digits, but the thumb is reduced in size. The hind feet have five functional digits.
  • Its retractable, switchblade-like claws on its thumbs worked as grappling hooks to bring an animal to the ground, Wroe said.
1.2The part of a glove that covers the thumb.
Example sentences
  • Put a few drops of peppermint oil on the thumb patches of your gloves, so you can sniff on the fly.
  • The top of the thumb is covered with nose friendly fabric so you can swipe away those tickles without rasping your shnoz.
  • The thumb part of the glove should fold down underneath the fingers and point down.

verb

[with object] Back to top  
1Press, move, or touch (something) with one’s thumb: as soon as she thumbed the button, the door slid open
More example sentences
  • The intercom beeped on a console near the galley and Merlin moved to thumb the control.
  • However, at 127 minutes and with a dialogue-heavy middle, some more impatient folk may be thumbing the scan forward button.
  • Nakamura fished a cell phone from his pants pocket, and the device chirped as he thumbed the two-way communication button.
Synonyms
1.1 [no object] Use one’s thumb to indicate something: he thumbed towards the men behind him
More example sentences
  • ‘Well, I fix that thing,’ Dreyden said, thumbing towards the ship, ‘when no one else is around.’
  • Debbie smirked at him and thumbed towards herself.
  • ‘Cassie’ she said simply, thumbing in the direction of the window.
2Turn over (pages) with or as if with one’s thumb: I’ve thumbed my address book and found quite a range of smaller hotels [no object]: he was thumbing through USA Today for the umpteenth time
More example sentences
  • Anyway, I am thumbing through the friendster pages via a search for ‘Interests: Blading’ in hope of finding some blading kakis.
  • But who can deny perusing the headlines, even thumbing through the pages, of the occasional supermarket tabloid while waiting to ring up our groceries?
  • After thumbing through a few pages, I was hooked immediately.
Synonyms
leaf, flick, flip, skim, browse, glance, look, riffle;
read, scan, dip into, run one's eye over, have a look at;
peruse
2.1Wear or soil (a book’s pages) by repeated handling: his dictionaries were thumbed and ink-stained
More example sentences
  • I do so love my books, so much so that I couldn't bring myself to read books that had been thumbed a thousand times over.
  • The smell and feel of them but books that have been thumbed through by hundreds and gone yellowy don't have quite the same appeal.
  • In our own kids' bookshelves, they're the most battered, thumbed and falling-apart books, so often have they been read.
Synonyms
make dog-eared, mark, soil, mess up, handle roughly, maul, paw
3Request or obtain (a free ride in a passing vehicle) by signalling with one’s thumb: three cars passed me and I tried to thumb a lift he was thumbing his way across France
More example sentences
  • And even if he found out where he was working out in Rio, he couldn't very well thumb a ride out there, could he?
  • You could otherwise hope that a friendly soul at the Clachaig will offer a lift, or thumb a ride back: you would be unlucky if no-one stopped.
  • Later, while filling his car radiator with water at a service station, he offers a lift to a young woman who is also trying to thumb a ride west.
Synonyms
get, obtain
informal hitch, hitch a lift

Origin

Old English thūma, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch duim and German Daumen, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin tumere 'to swell'. The verb dates from the late 16th century, first in the sense 'play (a musical instrument) with the thumbs'.

More
  • Like finger, thumb is Old English. It shares an ancient root with Latin tumere ‘to swell’, probably because the thumb is a ‘fat’ or ‘swollen’ finger. Thimble is formed from thumb, in the same way that handle is formed from hand. The expression thumbs up, showing satisfaction or approval, and its opposite thumbs down, indicating rejection or failure, hark back to the days of Roman gladiatorial combat. The thumbs were used to signal approval or disapproval by the spectators—despite what many people believe, though, they turned their thumbs down to indicate that a beaten gladiator had performed well and should be spared, and up to call for his death. The reversal of the phrases' meaning first appeared in the early 20th century. In one of the stories from Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill ( 1906), a Roman centurion facing a bleak future says to his friend, ‘We're finished men—thumbs down against both of us.’ In Shakespeare's Macbeth the Second Witch says as she sees Macbeth, ‘By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes.’ A sensation of pricking in the thumbs was believed to be a foreboding of evil or trouble. See also limb, rule

Phrases

be all thumbs

1
another way of saying be all fingers and thumbs (see finger).
Example sentences
  • I am not just all thumbs, more all toes.
  • You are all thumbs in the kitchen.
  • "He's all thumbs, Amelia."

thumb one's nose at

2
informal Show disdain or contempt for: high-strung and unpredictable, he routinely thumbed his nose at authority
More example sentences
  • He had the women, he had the gadgets and he was thumbing his nose at what was considered politically correct at the time.
  • Even more significantly, in having married a black woman, Becker seemed to be thumbing his nose at deeply ingrained Aryan idealism.
  • Yet instead of pursuing a bi-partisan agenda, he has thumbed his nose at over half of the American population.
Synonyms
defy, go against, rebel against, flout, fly in the face of, disobey, refuse to obey, disregard, ignore, set one's face against, kick against;
informal cock a snook at
archaic set at naught

thumbs up (or down)

3
informal An indication of satisfaction or approval (or of rejection or failure): plans to build a house on the site have been given the thumbs down by the Department of the Environment
[with reference to the signal of approval or disapproval used by spectators at a Roman amphitheatre; the sense has been reversed, as the Romans used ‘thumbs down’ to signify that a beaten gladiator had performed well and should be spared, and ‘thumbs up’ to call for his death]
More example sentences
  • Many watching the march demonstrated their approval by giving a thumbs up or by clapping.
  • It would be a pity that this event would not be celebrated and the thumbs up sign has already given it the green light.
  • I made my challenge and he accepted it with his version of a thumbs up.
Synonyms
rejection, refusal, veto, no, negation, rebuff, disapproval, turning down, turndown, non-acceptance, declining, dismissal, spurning, cold shoulder, cold-shouldering, snub, snubbing
informal red light, knock-back, kick in the teeth, smack in the face/eye
approval, seal of approval, approbation, endorsement, welcome, encouragement;
informal go-ahead, the OK, green light, say-so
rare permit

under someone's thumb

4
Completely under someone’s influence or control: he was very much under the thumb of his father
More example sentences
  • ‘You must be really satisfied at how you managed to hook me under your thumb all these years,’ he went on relentlessly.
  • Tenali Rama's interpretation: You must not become a shrew but must be so to some extent in order to keep your husband under your thumb.
  • Give it a couple of weeks, and The Man will soon stop asking you to do anything, and soon enough you'll have him under your thumb.

Derivatives

thumbed

1
adjective
Example sentences
  • The pathetic limp body of the non-opposable thumbed mammal slams brutally against the sides of the perspex container with an ear-shattering crack.
  • Printed miscellanies were not held in careful reverence - witness the torn pages, the splashes of ink, the thumbed texts.
  • He has a keen eye for the strengths of a weaving tradition that goes back 200 years - hence the thumbed notebooks.

thumbless

2
adjective
Example sentences
  • Pretty soon the clouds lifted and there in front of me were the peaks, soaring like a giant thumbless hand into the clouds.
  • He was the one who talked filth to Laura Dern in Wild At Heart and more recently played a thumbless Canadian spy in The English Patient.
  • With her fingers inside the thumbless muffs, she couldn't work the snaps, and that was so frustrating!

Definition of thumb in:

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