• WordNet 3.6
    • v thumb feel or handle with the fingers "finger the binding of the book"
    • v thumb travel by getting free rides from motorists
    • v thumb look through a book or other written material "He thumbed through the report","She leafed through the volume"
    • n thumb a convex molding having a cross section in the form of a quarter of a circle or of an ellipse
    • n thumb the part of a glove that provides a covering for the thumb
    • n thumb the thick short innermost digit of the forelimb
    • ***

Additional illustrations & photos:

Using the thumbs while lasting Using the thumbs while lasting
The Adventures of Tom Thumb The Adventures of Tom Thumb
Tom Thumb told her they were poor children who had lost their road Tom Thumb told her they were poor children who had lost their road
Hop-o'-my-Thumb waits for the other children to stop crying Hop-o'-my-Thumb waits for the other children to stop crying
Tom Thumb's Alphabet title Tom Thumb's Alphabet title

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
  • Interesting fact: The slowest growing finger nail is on the thumb nail and the fastest growing is the finger nail on the middle finger
    • n Thumb The short, thick first digit of the human hand, differing from the other fingers in having but two phalanges; the pollex. See Pollex. "Upon his thumb he had of gold a ring."
    • Thumb To handle awkwardly.
    • v. i Thumb To play with the thumb or thumbs; to play clumsily; to thrum.
    • Thumb To play with the thumbs, or with the thumbs and fingers; as, to thumb over a tune.
    • Thumb To soil or wear with the thumb or the fingers; to soil, or wear out, by frequent handling; also, to cover with the thumb; as, to thumb the touch-hole of a cannon. "He gravely informed the enemy that all his cards had been thumbed to pieces, and begged them to let him have a few more packs."
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
  • Interesting fact: Koalas have twin thumbs
    • n thumb In geology, a columnar projection of eruptive rock.
    • thumb To cover with the thumb, as the vent of a muzzle-loading cannon.
    • n thumb The shortest and thickest finger of the human hand; the pollex; the first digit of the hand, on the radial side, next to the index or forefinger. The perfected thumb is the chief characteristic of the human hand as distinguished from that of all other animals. This perfection is seen in the free movements of the member, and its ready apposability to any one of the other digits or to them all together. The extent to which it stands away from the rest indicates the great power and accuracy with which the hand may be used in grasping, as a prehensile organ, as in holding a pen or a knife. Such freedom and versatility are accomplished by the peculiar construction of the joint at the base of that metacarpal which supports the thumb. This articulation with the carpal bone called the trapezium is by means of reciprocally saddle-shaped articular surfaces, having the ease and extent of movement of a ball-and-socket or universal joint, though by a different mechanism. It is the only instance of such an articulation in the human body. The metacarpal bone of the thumb also differs from the rest in its mode of ossification, having, like the phalanges, a proximal and not a distal epiphysis—that is, the gristly cap that ossifies separately from the rest of the bone is on the end of the bone next to the wrist. The thumb is also peculiar in having but two joints or phalanges, the other digits having three apiece. The thumb is likewise moved by more muscles than those which actuate any other digit. They are a long deep flexor, and three separate long extensors (one for each phalanx and for the metacarpal bone), these four muscles coming to the thumb from high up in the forearm; and also several short muscles confined to the hand, the short flexor, the abductor, the adductor, and the opponens—altogether eight muscles in long and short sets of four each. The short muscles form the thenar eminence, or fleshy ball of the thumb.
    • n thumb The inner, radial, or first digit of the fore paw of any animal. When there are five digits, the first of these always corresponds to the human thumb; otherwise not.
    • n thumb The movable radial digit of a bird's manus or pinion, which bears the packet of feathers called the alula or bastard wing, and which is usually movable apart from the rest of the bones. By some it is supposed to correspond to the human thumb. It is more probably the homologue of the index or forefinger. See cut under pinion.
    • n thumb The thumb of the foot; the hallux; the inner digit of the foot, called the great toe in man. In quadrumanous or four-handed animals, as monkeys, opossums, and some others, it functions as a thumb, stands apart from the other digits, and so converts the hind foot into a grasping member, or “hand.” Its condition in man is quite exceptional in comparison with those animals to which he is nearest allied zoölogically.
    • n thumb The hind toe of a bird (except a three-toed woodpecker); the hallux; when there are two hind toes, the inner one of these (except in trogons). It is functionally a thumb, opposing other digits, and fitting the foot for grasping or perching. It is often absent or very small and functionless. Its length, low insertion, and entire freedom of movement are highly characteristic of the passerine series of birds, and varying conditions of its principal flexor tendon give rise to nomopelmous and correlated terms.
    • thumb To handle or perform awkwardly: as, to thumb over a tune.
    • thumb To soil or wear out with much handling; hence, to use, read, or turn over the pages of (as a book).
    • thumb To turn (one's glass) over the thumb: an old custom when persons were drinking together, intending to show that the glass had been emptied so that the small drop remaining would lie on the thumb-nail without running off. Compare supernaculum.
    • n thumb Palpitation of the heart in domestic animals, as the horse, the result of functional or organic disease. See palpitation.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
  • Interesting fact: The most common injury in bowling is a sore thumb.
    • n Thumb thum the short, thick digit, consisting of two phalanges, on the radial side of the human hand: the corresponding member in other animals
    • v.t Thumb to handle awkwardly: to play or soil with the thumb or fingers
    • v.i Thumb to finger
    • ***


  • Byron J. Langenfield
    Byron J. Langenfield
    “Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scales.”
  • William Collier
    William Collier
    “The soup is never hot enough if the waiter can keep his thumb in it.”
  • Marshall Lumsden
    Marshall Lumsden
    “At no time is freedom of speech more precious than when a man hits his thumb with a hammer.”
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    “I can never bring you to realize the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of thumb-nails, or the great issues that may hang from a boot-lace.”


All fingers and thumbs - If you're all fingers and thumbs, you are too excited or clumsy to do something properly that requires manual dexterity. 'All thumbs' is an alternative form of the idiom.
Fingers and thumbs - If you are all fingers and thumbs, you are being clumsy and not very skilled with your hands.
Green thumb - (USA) Someone with a talent for gardening has a green thumb.
Put your thumb on the scales - If you put your thumb on the scales, you try to influence the result of something in your favour.
Rule of thumb - Rule of thumb means approximately.
Stick out like a sore thumb - If something sticks or stands out like a sore thumb, it is clearly and obviously different from the things that are around it.
Thumb your nose at - If you thumb your nose at something, you reject it or scorn it.
Thumbs down & thumbs up - If something gets the thumbs up, it gets approval, while the thumbs down means disapproval.
Under your thumb - Someone who is manipulated or controlled by another person is under his or her thumb.


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
OE. thombe, thoumbe, þume, AS. þūma,; akin to OFries. thūma, D. duim, G. daumen, OHG. dūmo, Icel. þumall, Dan. tommel,finger, Sw. tumme, and perhaps to L. tumere, to swell. √56. Cf. Thimble Tumid


In literature:

Arms and hands hanging naturally, thumb along the seam of the trousers.
"Infantry Drill Regulations, United States Army, 1911" by United States War Department
The driver made a circle with finger and thumb.
"Legacy" by James H Schmitz
And all the time he sat there twiddling his thumbs, apparently oblivious of my presence.
"The Paternoster Ruby" by Charles Edmonds Walk
I jerks my thumb at her.
"Shorty McCabe" by Sewell Ford
He's crying and going on terribly because he can't get his thumb out.
"Uncle Wiggily and Old Mother Hubbard" by Howard R. Garis
Mike the Angel thumbed the switch, and his secretary's face appeared on the screen.
"Unwise Child" by Gordon Randall Garrett
One may detect it in linen by rolling the goods between thumb and finger.
"Textiles" by William H. Dooley
Curl the broad petals by laying the painted side next the hand and pressing the thumb into its centre.
"The Royal Guide to Wax Flower Modelling" by Emma Peachey
Just twist it gently between the thumb and finger.
"The Wit and Humor of America, Volume VIII (of X)" by Various
Median nerve; b b b b, its branches to the thumb and fingers.
"Surgical Anatomy" by Joseph Maclise

In poetry:

We never swore blood kin
thumb to thumb.
What we have transfused
are words and touches.
"Blood Kin" by Raymond Queneau
How in his heart he wish'd to have
A child, in time to come,
To be his heir, though it might be
No bigger than his thumb.
"The Life And Death Of Tom Thumb" by Anonymous British
Meanwhile the cow was troubled much,
And soon releas'd Tom Thumb ;
No rest she had till out her mouth,
In bad plight he did come.
"The Life And Death Of Tom Thumb" by Anonymous British
'NO VISITORS' I thumb the roller to
and leans against the door.
Comfortable in my horseblanket
I prop on the costly bed & dream of my wife,
my first wife,
and my second wife & my son.
"Dream Song 54: 'NO VISITORS' I thumb the roller to" by John Berryman
Now let us touch thumb, and be friends ere we part,
Here, John, is my thumb, and here, Mat, is heart;
To Halstead I speed, and you go back to town;
Thus ends the first part of the ballad of Down.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.
"Down-Hall. A Ballad." by Matthew Prior
And evermore I’m whistling or lilting what you sung,
Your smile is always in my heart, your name beside my tongue;
But you’ve as many sweethearts as you’d count on both your hands,
And for myself there’s not a thumb or little finger stands.
"Lovely Mary Donnelly" by William Allingham

In news:

One by one my friends grew green thumb s.
A Community's Green Thumb .
Shopping Exercise Your Green Thumb Today at Loyalty to Local.
Monet's Green Thumb : How Art Grew From A Garden.
Help Grow Your Green Thumb .
Michelle Obama shows off her green thumb .
Fiascos al fresco OR, How I Discovered My Green Thumb 's Really Brown.
Patti Tucker has one of the greenest thumbs in Kentucky and the most blue ribbons to prove it.
(WSAZ) – Keeping your " green thumb growing" can be quite a challenge with all of the rain we've been getting lately.
How to fake like you've got a green thumb when you don't.
Green Thumb times, dates announced for SL location.
After a deep breath and a final look, I gave the thumbs-up.
Any man who has ever pounded nails for a living has hit his thumb a time or two.
Bears believe in backup QB with Cutler out with broken thumb.
Paul is thinking more about his thumb rather than reacting.

In science:

As a rule of thumb, there are two important conditions that must be satisfied for the proper use of the LRT and F statistics.
Statistics: Handle with Care, Detecting Multiple Model Components with the Likelihood Ratio Test
With an algorithm for automatically classifying a review as “ thumbs up” or “ thumbs down” , it would be possible for a search engine to report such summary statistics.
Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down? Semantic Orientation Applied to Unsupervised Classification of Reviews
This an example of the rule thumb that finite size effects in hadron masses become a concern for mP S L < 4.
Meson and Baryon Spectroscopy on a Lattice
As a rule of thumb we can estimate the position of the coherence peak roughly at the point where ∆(T ) becomes equal to kB T , which is shown as the crossing point between the solid and the dashed line in the inset of Fig. 6.
Superconductivity of Magnesium Diboride: Theoretical Aspects
According to the rule of thumb given above this would mean that the coherence peak in the π band is expected to appear at much lower temperature than in a conventional superconductor.
Superconductivity of Magnesium Diboride: Theoretical Aspects