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 periodicals archive ?
Jenson Button, who has been hit with a raft of penalties for the race, spent most of the session twiddling his thumbs in the McLaren garage after encountering more technical issues.
Having enjoyed an incredible start to the campaign, flying winger Townsend has been left twiddling his thumbs on the sidelines since picking up a hamstring injury against West Ham on December 15.
Having enjoyed an incredible start to the campaign, the flying winger has been left twiddling his thumbs on the sidelines since picking up a hamstring injury against West Ham on December 15.
There's David Cameron twiddling his thumbs and doing nothing about his MP Aiden Burley, who was condemned in a French court for buying a Nazi uniform for a pal on a stag weekend that led to him being arrested.
It left Button twiddling his thumbs for five hours in his motorhome parked inside the paddock as the team attempted to remedy the situation.
Ben's situation is similar to Joe's in that he found himself twiddling his thumbs behind another top keeper in Van der Saar.
SHAAPIT might have flopped but Vikram Bhatt isn't sitting at home twiddling his thumbs.
Over two years the top executive was given the staggering windfall for sitting at home twiddling his thumbs.
And wing Leon Andrews and fly-half Dai Langdon crossed for tries while the inside centre was twiddling his thumbs in the sin bin.
As Moyes added, thousands of Everton fans had travelled to the game and wouldn't have expected to see him standing on the touchline twiddling his thumbs while the referee made a decision he later admitted to getting badly wrong.
However, due to the Hollywood writers' strike, Jason is twiddling his thumbs until it ends and he can get back to work.
1, above, is earning his stripes at Dunfermline instead of twiddling his thumbs behind Ronald Waterreus and Stefan Klos.
Moyes has refused to discuss the issue all week but directors must be concerned that their best-paid player, who has 18 months of his contract left, is now sitting at home twiddling his thumbs Moyes, who has seen his side slip into the Premiership relegation zone, said: ``If players have been complacent, that is down to me.
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.