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 ?
Inquiry In an organisation with more admirals than Navy ships, there are enough senior officers twiddling their thumbs to form a PTSD taskforce.
Aye, there's nothing worse than having a load of gamers sat round twiddling their thumbs.
THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF (8pm BBC1) LAST week's technical challenge had the bakers twiddling their thumbs as they wondered what to do with all the time they'd been given.
The decision-makers may be twiddling their thumbs - but here in the North East we are pulling our fingers out.
Despite captain Alastair Cook and one-Test wonder Michael Carberry's efforts with the bat on the opening day, the rest of the side has had to do with gym sessions after days two and three of the game were washed out by rain, with Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann just twiddling their thumbs.
RAIN decimated the Med Imaging Liverpool Cricket Competition's fixture list as those sides desperate for points at both ends of the table were left twiddling their thumbs in frustration.
These paramedics are doing a job where the natural instinct is to help save lives but disaster was narrowly avoided here and it could have had serious consequences for the workers left on a jetty, twiddling their thumbs.
Over a career the total sees the average worker sitting through around 9000 hours of needless meetings - a full year and ten days spent twiddling their thumbs.
They took it in turns to play, which sometimes led to the awkward sight of the others twiddling their thumbs waiting for one to finish.
Now, the end of November is rapidly approaching and users are twiddling their thumbs waiting for the update, wondering if further delays will occur.
Let's hope some compromise can been found, because it's not in the sport's interests to have the best riders twiddling their thumbs at home when they should be on the track entertaining their public and banging in winners for connections and punters.
Skupski and partner Colin Fleming were forced to sit in the locker-room twiddling their thumbs while Mahut, who was scheduled to face the Brits along with fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement, dealt with the small matter of finishing his epic duel with John Isner.
Does this council of ours really listen to the people of Coventry or do they sit on their backsides all day twiddling their thumbs and hoping that the situation will right itself?
It's Never the Right Time: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Behaviors to Avoid at All Costs When Seeking Self-Employment" encourages readers to take that risk instead of sitting around twiddling their thumbs.
In place of twiddling their thumbs or listening to sordid writing, why don't they start implementing the promised changes in Welsh law?