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

EXAMPLES FROM THE WEB FOR THUMBING

Trask slipped the pistol from his holster, thumbing off the safety.

Nuclear particles are ignored by it; it just sits there thumbing its nose at us.

Dancing-women followed, keeping step to the thumbing of their tambours.

After thumbing its pages for a moment, he found a place and began to read.

"And poo-poo for you," said Murray, thumbing his nose at the apparition.

Dan, thumbing through the loose papers on the table, made no reply.

The proletaire have risen and are thumbing their nose at the gods.

The man opposite her was just thumbing his last morsel of pie.

I was winner and thumbing my chips, when bang went a gun at the other table.

"Here's your money," he said, thumbing over the bills clumsily and regretfully.

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.