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A thimble (sense 1).
A thimble (sense 1) used by a fur sewer.
A thimble (sense 4) attached to a loop of rope (top) or cable as a protection against chafing.

The noun is derived from Middle English thymbyll, thimel (thimble) [and other forms],[1] from Old English þȳmel (thimble, thumbstall; fingerstall), then either:

The English word is analysable as thumb +‎ -le (suffix forming agent nouns), and is cognate with Dutch duimeling (thumbstall), German Däumling (thumbstall), German Low German Dümelke (thumbstall), Saterland Frisian Düümelke (thumbstall), Scots thummle, thumble (thimble).

The verb is derived from the noun.



thimble (plural thimbles)

  1. (sewing) A pitted, now usually metal, cup-shaped cap worn on the tip of a finger, which is used in sewing to push the needle through material.
  2. As much as fills a thimble (sense 1); a thimbleful.
  3. (also attributively) An object which resembles a thimble (sense 1) in shape or size.
    1. (games) A thimble or similar object used in thimblerig (a game of skill which requires the bettor to guess under which of three thimbles or small cups a pea-sized object has been placed after the person operating the game rapidly rearranges them).
    2. (technology) A socket in machinery shaped like a thimble.
  4. (nautical) A metal ring which a cable or rope intended for attaching to other things is looped around as a protection against chafing.
    • 1836, Thomas Dickinson, A Narrative of the Operations for the Recovery of the Public Stores and Treasure Sunk in H.M.S. Thetis, at Cape Frio, on the Coast of Brazil, on the 5th December, 1830. [], London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, →OCLC, page 33:
      To relieve the stern in a measure from the great weight of the [diving-]bell, a short, strong mast was stepped in the usual place, and steeving forward; from its head to the head of the davit was a span, which set up with two thimbles [footnote: A sort of iron ring.] and a lanyard, and the whole was supported by a strong stay from the mast-head to the stern of the boat, and two shrouds on a side, leading forward.
    • 1849, John M‘Leod Murphy, W[illiam] N[icholson] Jeffers, Jun., “Part I. Spars and Rigging.”, in Nautical Routine and Stowage; with Short Rules in Navigation, New York, N.Y.: Henry Spear, [], →OCLC, pages 10–11:
      The rope part is fitted with a thimble in one end, which is connected to the chain by means of a shackle; the other extremity is spliced around a heart, and goes with a laniard, as in the case of bobstays. The splice of the thimble and the heart should be served.
  5. (technology) A ring- or tube-shaped component such as a ferrule.


  • thumbstall (thimble used by a cobbler or sailmaker)

Derived terms[edit]



thimble (third-person singular simple present thimbles, present participle thimbling, simple past and past participle thimbled)

  1. (intransitive) To use a thimble (noun sense 1).
  2. (intransitive, by extension) To sew.



  1. ^ thī̆mel, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ thimble, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1912; “thimble, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]