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 the phrase refers to 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. I was twiddling my thumbs and minding my own business when the security guard asked me if I had permission to be there.
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