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 ?
Finally, "General Release," a show organized by the British Council to present the work of yet another group of young British artists, includes a video image of a pair of twiddling thumbs - a fitting image for an art scene passing time while waiting for clarity, a whole generation of artists inching forward, fearful of making a mistake.
Finally, after two hours drinking coffee and twiddling thumbs, the all-important fax beeped in to dot the i's and cross the t's of a three-year contract and United's new manager stepped in front of the cameras for his coronation.
So, instead of twiddling thumbs at home or in the malls, I decided to explore new avenues and learn things that I always wanted to learn," Geriya says.
So I asked Paul if he would help me - after all I thought it would be better than sitting at home twiddling thumbs.
But they have been left twiddling thumbs, balls and bat handles during the last three days as the Worcester rain has failed to stop.
They turn up for work but it's twiddling thumbs and swotting up on what they learned in the Far East.