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 ?
The decision-makers may be twiddling their thumbs - but here in the North East we are pulling our fingers out.
Cllr Millea needs to do something positive for shoppers and businesses alike, otherwise the car parks will be empty and traffic wardens will be twiddling their thumbs as people shop in more friendly environments.
No one is saying the Cabinet will be twiddling their thumbs for the entire summer months.
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