thumbs up Unabridged


the short, thick, inner digit of the human hand, next to the forefinger.
the corresponding digit in other animals; pollex.
the part of a glove or mitten for containing this digit.
Architecture. an ovolo or echinus molding.
verb (used with object)
to soil or wear with the thumbs in handling, as the pages of a book.
to glance through (the pages of a book, leaflet, etc.) quickly.
to play (a guitar or other instrument) with or as with the thumbs.
(of a hitchhiker) to solicit or get (a ride) by pointing the thumb in the desired direction of travel.
all thumbs, awkward; clumsy; bungling: The visitor almost knocked over a vase and seemed to be all thumbs.
thumb one's nose,
to put one's thumb to one's nose and extend the fingers as a crudely defiant or contemptuous gesture.
to express defiance or contempt; dismiss or reject contemptuously.
thumbs down, a gesture or expression of dissent or disapproval: We turned thumbs down to that suggestion.
thumbs up, a gesture or expression of assent or approval.
under one's thumb, under the power or influence of; subordinate to. Also, under the thumb of.

before 900; Middle English; Old English thūma; cognate with Dutch duim, Old Saxon, Old High German dūmo (German Daumen), Old Norse thumall; akin to Latin tumēre to swell (tumor)

thumbless, adjective
thumblike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To thumbs up
World English Dictionary
thumb (θʌm)
1.  Technical name: pollex the first and usually shortest and thickest of the digits of the hand, composed of two short bonesRelated: pollical
2.  the corresponding digit in other vertebrates
3.  the part of a glove shaped to fit the thumb
4.  architect another name for ovolo
5.  all thumbs clumsy
6.  thumbs down an indication of refusal, disapproval, or negation: he gave the thumbs down on our proposal
7.  thumbs up an indication of encouragement, approval, or acceptance
8.  under someone's thumb at someone's mercy or command
vb (when intr, often foll by through)
9.  (tr) to touch, mark, or move with the thumb
10.  to attempt to obtain (a lift or ride) by signalling with the thumb
11.  to flip the pages of (a book, magazine, etc) perfunctorily in order to glance at the contents
12.  thumb one's nose at to deride or mock, esp by placing the thumb on the nose with fingers extended
Related: pollical
[Old English thūma; related to Old Saxon thūma, Old High German thūmo, Old Norse thumall thumb of a glove, Latin tumēre to swell]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

O.E. þuma, from W.Gmc. *thumon- (cf. O.Fris. thuma, O.S., O.H.G. thumo, Ger. Daumen, Du. duim "thumb," O.N. þumall "thumb of a glove"), lit. "the stout or thick (finger)," from PIE *tum- "swell" (cf. L. tumere "to swell," tumidus "swollen;" Avestan tuma "fat;" see
thigh). For spelling with -b (attested from c.1290), see limb. The verb meaning "to go through" (especially of printed material) is first found 1930, though the related sense of "soil or wear by handling" dates from 1644. Verb meaning "to hitchhike" is 1939, originally the thumb pointed in the direction one wished to travel. Thumbnail sketch (1852) so called for its smallness. To be under (someone's) thumb "be totally controlled by that person" is recorded from 1586. Thumbs up (1887) and thumbs down (1906) were said to be from expressions of approval or the opposite in ancient amphitheaters, especially gladiator shows, where the gesture decided whether a defeated combatant was spared or slain. But the Roman gesture was merely one of hiding the thumb in the hand or extending it. Perhaps the modern gesture is from the usual coachmen's way of greeting while the hands are occupied with the reins.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

thumb (thŭm)
The short thick digit of the human hand, next to the index finger and opposable to each of the other four digits.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary
thumbs up (down)

Expressions of approval and disapproval respectively: “The two critics disagreed about the movie; one gave it thumbs up, the other thumbs down.” In the gladiatorial contests of ancient Rome, a thumbs-up gesture from the crowd meant that the loser would live; thumbs down meant death.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

thumbs up

An expression of approval or hopefulness, as in The town said thumbs up on building the elderly housing project. The antonym thumbs down indicates disapproval or rejection, as in Mother gave us thumbs down on serving beer at our party. Alluding to crowd signals used in Roman amphitheaters, these idioms were first recorded in English about 1600. In ancient times the meaning of the gestures was opposite that of today. Thumbs down indicated approval; thumbs up, rejection. Exactly when the reversal occurred is not known, but the present conventions were established by the early 1900s.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature