twiddle (one's) thumbs

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twiddle (one's) thumbs

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

twiddle one's thumbs

Fig. to pass the time by twirling one's thumbs. What am I supposed to do while waiting for you? Sit here and twiddle my thumbs? Don't sit around twiddling your thumbs. Get busy!
See also: thumb, twiddle

twiddle one's thumbs

Be bored or idle, as in There I sat for three hours, twiddling my thumbs, while he made call after call. This expression alludes to the habit of idly turning one's thumbs about one another during a period of inactivity. [Mid-1800s]
See also: thumb, twiddle

twiddle your thumbs

be bored or idle because you have nothing to do.
See also: thumb, twiddle

ˌtwiddle your ˈthumbs

(informal) do nothing while you are waiting for something to happen: I had to sit at home twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the phone to ring.
If you twiddle your thumbs, you move them around each other while your fingers are joined together.
See also: thumb, twiddle

twiddle (one's) thumbs

To do little or nothing; be idle.
See also: thumb, twiddle
References in classic literature ?
For recreation he could twiddle his thumbs and speculate on the thoughts which must agitate the minds of the generals.
Is it any wonder that these people in a position of power turned a blind eye to the disastrous actions of the greedy incompetent charlatans who've been running our banks in recent years and allowed Gordon Brown, as Chancellor, to sit back, twiddle his thumbs, and do absolutely nothing to regulate them until they had successfully ruined our economy?
While Redford made the best of his way home, Against The Grain travelled strongly but was forced to twiddle his thumbs before any room materialised.
But he fears his England prospects would nosedive if he was forced to twiddle his thumbs as Edwin van der Sar's understudy.
Presumably Mr Harris will twiddle his thumbs for two years while costs continue to escalate and then claim that the project has become un-affordable.
Lockett, however, is left to twiddle his thumbs and settle for another eight-round outing, in Widnes on May 8.
But that tournament has now been cancelled, leaving O'Sullivan to twiddle his thumbs at home in Chigwell while the rest of snooker's elite fight it out for the third ranking title of the season.