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 ?
It would contribute to the well being of the patient and he would not be twiddling his thumbs, until such time the nursing capacity had built up.
If the average cable operator is anything like mine, that housesitter's going to be twiddling his thumbs on the employee's living room couch until the first Tuesday before Armageddon.
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