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Can You Call Your Thumb a Finger?

Updated on
September 16, 2022
Grammar
Can You Call Your Thumb a Finger?
  • A thumb is a digit, but not technically a finger.
  • Many people don’t make the distinction between thumbs and other digits.

How many fingers do you have? Your answer might depend on whether you consider your thumb to be a finger. Let’s look into whether or not you can accurately call your thumb a finger.

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Finger definition

If you look up finger on OxfordDictionaries.com, you will find this definition: “Each of the four slender jointed parts attached to either hand. . .” Doesn’t this definition seem to exclude the thumb? Why exclude it?

Thumb vs. finger

Your thumb is different from your fingers. Your fingers have two joints and three bones called phalanges or phalanxes. A thumb only has one joint and two phalanges. Anatomically, a thumb is unique. The position also sets the thumb apart. The thumb is out to the side of the hand and lower than the four fingers. So if a thumb is not really a finger, what is it?

Thumb definition

Thumb refers to the first digit of the human hand, set apart and opposable to the other four digits of the hand. Appendages like your fingers, toes, and thumbs are digits. So humans usually have five digits per hand, one of which is the thumb.

Thumb and finger examples

What about in practice? Do writers make the distinction between thumbs and fingers? Let’s look at some examples:

Meanwhile, the original poster, who wished to be identified as Vicky, explained to Buzzfeed that her photo was staged as a joke – and she does indeed have five fingers after all.
News.com.au

“We had an ultrasound,” said his mom, Sheryl Lilya. “And they were going, ‘There’s the five fingers, there’s five fingers here.”
CBS Minnesota

It’s very close to a human hand in the way it operates, even though it doesn’t have four fingers and a thumb.
ARS Technica Uk

Fleck, asked what kind of television rating he expects Tuesday when WMU plays at Kent State, curled his four fingers onto the tip of his thumb to form a zero.
M Live

What has four fingers and a thumb, but no hand?
Persephone Magazine

As the examples indicate, some people make the distinction, some don’t, and others only do to contrast the fingers with the thumb. Whether you make the distinction will probably depend on your personality and your audience. Are you wondering about the answer to the riddle from Persephone Magazine? It’s a glove!

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