• WordNet 3.6
    • v twiddle manipulate, as in a nervous or unconscious manner "He twiddled his thumbs while waiting for the interview"
    • v twiddle turn in a twisting or spinning motion "The leaves swirled in the autumn wind"
    • n twiddle a series of small (usually idle) twists or turns
    • ***
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
  • Interesting fact: 8% of Americans twiddle their thumbs.
    • Twiddle A pimple.
    • Twiddle A slight twist with the fingers.
    • v. i Twiddle To play with anything; hence, to be busy about trifles.
    • v. t Twiddle To touch lightly, or play with; to tweedle; to twirl; as, to twiddle one's thumbs; to twiddle a watch key.
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • twiddle To twirl idly; hence, to fiddle or play with.
    • twiddle To move or propel by repeated light touches.
    • twiddle To twirl; revolve.
    • twiddle To play or trifle with something, as by touching or handling; toy.
    • twiddle To be busy about trifles; quiddle.
    • n twiddle A slight twirl with the fingers.
    • n twiddle A pimple.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • v.t Twiddle twid′l to twirl idly, to play with
    • v.i Twiddle to revolve: to trifle with something
    • n Twiddle a twirl of the fingers
    • ***


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
Probably of imitative origin. Cf. Tweedle


In literature:

Time leers between, above his twiddling thumbs.
"Prisoners" by Mary Cholmondeley
So it went on, over and over again, more sad than the sight of a quaker as he twiddles his thumbs.
"The Field of Clover" by Laurence Housman
Ready now, but so long as the wind blows, we have to twiddle our thumbs.
"Gallipoli Diary, Volume I" by Ian Hamilton
Suddenly observing their bloomered exposure, however, he tried to poke his legs under the couch, and twiddled his thumbs instead.
"The Wit and Humor of America, Volume V. (of X.)" by Various
I s'pose a gentleman would sit down and twiddle his fingers, and do nothing.
"Frank Merriwell's Reward" by Burt L. Standish
When he was in the office he would sit twiddling his thumbs.
"Pirate Gold" by Frederic Jesup Stimson
Bentrik twiddled the selector.
"Space Viking" by Henry Beam Piper
The virago smiled and twiddled the knife between her fingers.
"The Day of Wrath" by Maurus Jókai
Mr. Goodnight mused a few moments, and twiddled his fingers.
"The Candidate" by Joseph Alexander Altsheler
How in God's name am I to sit round here for three days and twiddle my thumbs?
"Black Oxen" by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Others remained, and licked and twiddled him with their antennae for a long time.
"Edge of the Jungle" by William Beebe
She'd sit twiddling her thumbs!
"The Bill-Toppers" by Andre Castaigne
To twiddle 'em for me, maybe.
"The Huntress" by Hulbert Footner
A man who has been active hates to sit down and twiddle his thumbs.
"The Place of Honeymoons" by Harold MacGrath
He listened, with lowered eyes, twiddling his thumbs, to the brief tale.
"The Dead Command" by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
But there was a fire in the room, and he stood before it, twiddling his hat.
"Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite" by Anthony Trollope
I never remember having twiddled my thumbs before but I caught myself doing it in his room.
"Godfrey Marten, Undergraduate" by Charles Turley
Can you twiddle your bow again?
"Robin Hood" by Paul Creswick
They might have seemed to be simply staring into space at such moments, dreading approaching death perhaps, and simply twiddling their fingers.
"Lords of the Stratosphere" by Arthur J. Burks
Hal was sitting on the side of the cot, twiddling his fingers.
"Hidden Hand" by Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth

In poetry:

Curse me the fiddling, twiddling diplomats,
Haggling here, plotting and hatching there,
Who make the kind world but their game of cards,
Till millions die at turning of a hair.
"A Curse For Kings" by Vachel Lindsay
Ave, she mixed up that pudden with Heavenly magic,
She played with her spoon on that dough
Just like Paderewski would play the piano
Or Kreisler now deceased would twiddle his how.
"Yorkshire Pudden" by Weston and Lee

In news:

In particular, EU leaders are meeting today to decide if they plan on doing anything to prevent the eurozone from melting down, or if they're just going to twiddle their thumbs a bit longer.
After almost making the podium in last Thursday's all-around, she had to twiddle her thumbs for five days until her next chance.
The UN peacekeeping mission there, the world's largest, is twiddling its thumbs.
Reader Feedback from the February issue says that when the game leaves town, people are left twiddling their thumbs, and that the passivity of engineers is the true enemy, not the Chinese.
Forks are the perfect instruments for twiddling long noodles or spaghetti.
The Street continues to shows signs of the jitters over Apple shares, twiddling with their numbers for both this quarter and next, and fretting about demand, component supplies and competition.
It's usually something legislators do when they are tired of twiddling their thumbs, and the things they designate don't always make sense.
At the Met stagehands still twiddle dials, plug in cables, consult numbered charts and use a l...
Frendly Twiddle Shows in Colorado.
Sissy Spacek is not so much a band as an evolutionary step in the changing role of producer as it mutates from sedentary, knob-twiddling hit-maker into a more vicious, predatory animal.
No longer must you twiddle your thumbs while your bartender muddles, say, curry leaves with marmalade.

In science:

This is required for the so-called ‘twiddle factors’ in the decomposition of QFTHp along the subgroup tower {1} ⊳ N∞ ⊳ Hp .
On the Power of Random Bases in Fourier Sampling: Hidden Subgroup Problem in the Heisenberg Group
To be able to compare the matrices obtained for the sl(n) and sl(n|n) cases, we put a twiddle on the supermatrices: ˜D , ˜S .
Sylvester-t' Hooft generators of sl(n) and sl(n|n), and relations between them
Moreover, barred spinors are replaced by independent twiddled spinors (e.g. eΣA′B ′ ) which are no longer complex conjugates of unbarred (or untwiddled) spinors, since complex conjugation is no longer available.
Complex Geometry of Nature and General Relativity
Without the use of ‘twiddle factors’ (Cooley & Tukey 1965), the 2DFS will differ from the HRFS.
Radio Pulsars
For everything else we reuse the notation of , referred to as (K) in what follows, except that a twiddle on the color components of gluon, ghost and quark fields is dropped.
Non-perturbative renormalization of the chromo-magnetic operator in Heavy Quark Effective Theory and the B* - B mass splitting
The final set (‘Twiddle lock’), was obtained with a very low bandwidth stabilization system: a graduate student turning a knob.
Single barium ion spectroscopy: light shifts, hyperfine structure, and progress on an optical frequency standard and atomic parity violation
In the integral by parts formula (Lemma 3), the twiddle operation plays a crucial role.
Bounds for the adiabatic approximation with applications to quantum computation
Putting together Eqs. (14)–(16) and making use of the off-diagonal character of any “twiddled” operator ˜A, ˜B , etc., gives Eq. (13).
Bounds for the adiabatic approximation with applications to quantum computation