Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.

EXAMPLES FROM THE WEB FOR THUMBED

He thumbed down the communicator-button and spoke into a microphone.

Jon thumbed the tag out of his waist slot and handed it across the desk.

I had to try to stop him here, and with fear and trepidation I thumbed the reel.

He thumbed a tablet into his mouth, and presently his breathing quieted.

It was thumbed and thrumbed all to pieces from long and patient use.

Lynch's voice was already coming over it when Malone thumbed it on.

He pulled out his radiophone and thumbed the call button again.

He held it to his ear and thumbed the call button insistently.

Joe took a chair while he waited and thumbed through a fan magazine.

Turning to his mates, he thumbed at the prisoner over his shoulder.

WORD ORIGIN

Old English þuma, from West Germanic *thumon- (cf. Old Frisian thuma, Old Saxon, Old High German thumo, German Daumen, Dutch duim "thumb," Old Norse þumall "thumb of a glove"), literally "the stout or thick (finger)," from PIE *tum- "swell" (cf. Latin tumere "to swell," tumidus "swollen;" Avestan tuma "fat;" see thigh). For spelling with -b (attested from late 13c.), see limb.

To be under (someone's) thumb "be totally controlled by that person" is recorded from 1580s. 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.

Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.