twiddle thumbs

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Related to twiddle thumbs: twiddle one's thumbs

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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

twiddle (one's) thumbs

To do little or nothing; be idle.
See also: thumb, twiddle
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

twiddle one's thumbs, to

To be bored; to be idle. The habit of idly turning one’s thumbs about each other during a period of enforced inactivity gave rise to this cliché, which began life in the mid-nineteenth century. “You’d have all the world do nothing . . . but twiddle its thumbs,” wrote Douglas Jerrold (Mrs. Caudle’s Curtain Lectures, 1846).
See also: to, twiddle
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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