be twiddling (one's) thumbs

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be twiddling (one's) thumbs

To be waiting idly because one cannot take action or has nothing to do at the moment. Although "twiddling one's thumbs" is an actual gesture (in which one's fingers are interlaced and each thumb is brought over the other in succession), the phrase is usually used figuratively. Oh, I'm just twiddling my thumbs in the ER, waiting for someone to give me an update on Claire's condition.
See also: thumb, twiddle

be twiddling your thumbs

If you are twiddling your thumbs, you are waiting with nothing useful to do. I'd far rather be cleaning than twiddling my thumbs waiting for the boys to wake up. There is a lot of team work too and no one is ever left twiddling their thumbs.
See also: thumb, twiddle
References in periodicals archive ?
I am twiddling my thumbs and it is one of my biggest dreams.
What is far more significant is the fact that I should be operating this afternoon, but am twiddling my thumbs in my office because there aren't enough beds available to bring my patients in to the hospital.
I should be operating now, but am twiddling my thumbs because there aren't enough beds available to bring my patients in to the hospital, " consultant surgeon Tudor Davies told Wales on Sunday.