Thumb twiddling

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Position of fingers and thumbs for the practice of twiddling

Thumb twiddling is an activity that is done with the hands of an individual whereby the fingers are interlocked and the thumbs circle around a common focal point, usually in the middle of the distance between the two thumbs.

While it is an expression of at least a moderate amount of manual dexterity, thumb twiddling is frequently used as an example of a useless, time-wasting activity.[1]


Thumb twiddling is considered to be one of several useless activities such as opening and closing doors and checking to see if a lock is bolted tight. It's reported that thumb twiddling is common in individuals with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Thumb twiddling may be a result of nervousness, anxiety, boredom or habit.[2]

Medical uses[edit]

Thumb twiddling can be used as a simple test for manual dexterity.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hayes, Justin Cord. 747 Things to Do on a Plane: From Lift-off to Landing, All You Need to Make Your Travels Fly By. F+W Publications, Inc., 2008.
  2. ^ "The fine art of Thumb Twiddling". Soph Laugh, 2011-2016.
  3. ^ O'Sullivan, Joanne. I Don't Care If We're There Yet: The Backseat Boredom Buster. Sterling Publishing Co Inc, 2008, p. 19.