have a finger in the pie


  1. any of the terminal members of the hand, especially one other than the thumb.
  2. a part of a glove made to receive a finger.
  3. the breadth of a finger as a unit of measurement; digit.
  4. the length of a finger: approximately 4½ inches (11 cm).
  5. Slang. an informer or spy.
  6. something like a finger in form or use, as a projection or pointer: a finger of land leading out into the bay; the finger on the speedometer.
  7. any of various projecting parts of machines.

verb (used with object)

  1. to touch with the fingers; toy or meddle with; handle.
  2. to touch with the fingers so as to mar or spoil: Please don’t finger the vegetables.
  3. to pilfer; filch.
  4. Music.
    1. to play on (an instrument) with the fingers.
    2. to perform or mark (a passage of music) with a certain fingering.
  5. Slang.
    1. to inform against or identify (a criminal) to the authorities: He fingered the man who robbed the bank.
    2. to designate as a victim, as of murder or other crime.

verb (used without object)

  1. to touch or handle something with the fingers.
  2. to extend in or as in the shape of a finger: Landing piers finger out into the river along the city’s shoreline.
  1. burn one’s fingers, to suffer injury or loss by meddling or by acting rashly: If you get involved in the controversy, you may burn your fingers.
  2. give (someone) the finger, Slang. to express contempt for by or as by the obscene gesture of pointing the middle finger upward while folding the other fingers against the palm.
  3. have a finger in the pie,
    1. to have an interest or share in something.
    2. to meddle in something.
  4. keep one’s fingers crossed, to wish for good luck or success, as in a specific endeavor: Keep your fingers crossed that I get the job.
  5. lay/put one’s finger on,
    1. to indicate exactly; remember: I know the name, but I can’t put my finger on it.
    2. to discover; locate: I haven’t been able to lay my finger on the book you requested.
  6. not lift a finger, to make not even a small attempt; do nothing: The house was falling into ruin, but he wouldn’t lift a finger to repair it.
  7. put the finger on, Slang. finger(def 12).
  8. slip through one’s fingers,
    1. to elude one, as an opportunity not taken; escape: She let the chance of a lifetime slip through her fingers.
    2. to pass or be consumed quickly: Money just slips through his fingers.
  9. snap one’s fingers (at), to exhibit disdain or contempt (for): She snaps her fingers at the local gossip.
  10. twist/wrap around one’s little finger, to exert one’s influence easily or successfully upon: He has a remarkable talent for twisting people around his little finger.


    1. any of the digits of the hand, often excluding the thumbTechnical name: digitus manus
    2. (as modifier)a finger bowl
    3. (in combination)a fingernail Related adjective: digital
  1. the part of a glove made to cover a finger
  2. something that resembles a finger in shape or functiona finger of land
  3. Also called: digit the length or width of a finger used as a unit of measurement
  4. a quantity of liquid in a glass, etc, as deep as a finger is wide; tot
  5. a projecting machine part, esp one serving as an indicator, guide, or guard
  6. burn one’s fingers to suffer from having meddled or been rash
  7. get one’s finger out or pull one’s finger out British informal to begin or speed up activity, esp after initial delay or slackness
  8. have a finger in the pie or have one’s finger in the pie
    1. to have an interest in or take part in some activity
    2. to meddle or interfere
  9. lay a finger on (usually negative) to harm
  10. lay one’s finger on or put one’s finger on to indicate, identify, or locate accurately
  11. let slip through one’s fingers to allow to escape; miss narrowly
  12. not lift a finger or not raise a finger (foll by an infinitive) not to make any effort (to do something)
  13. point the finger at to accuse or blame
  14. put the finger on informal
    1. to inform on or identify, esp for the police
    2. to choose (the victim or location of an intended crime)
  15. twist around one’s little finger or wrap around one’s little finger to have easy and complete control or influence over


  1. (tr) to touch or manipulate with the fingers; handle
  2. (tr) informal, mainly US to identify as a criminal or suspect
  3. (intr) to extend like a finger
  4. to use one’s fingers in playing (an instrument, such as a piano or clarinet)
  5. to indicate on (a composition or part) the fingering required by a pianist, harpsichordist, etc
  6. (tr; usually passive) to arrange the keys of (a clarinet, flute, etc) for playing in a certain way

early 15c., “to touch or point to with the finger” (but cf. fingering from late 14c.), from finger (n.). Sense of “play upon a musical instrument” is from 1510s. The meaning “identify a criminal” is underworld slang first recorded 1930. Related: Fingered; fingering.


Old English fingor, from Proto-Germanic *fingraz (cf. Old Saxon fingar, Old Frisian finger, Old Norse fingr, Dutch vinger, German Finger, Gothic figgrs), with no cognates outside Germanic; perhaps connected with PIE *penkwe-, the root meaning “five.”

As a unit of measure (Middle English) it represents the breadth of a finger, about three-quarters of an inch. They generally are numbered from the thumb, and named index finger, fool’s finger, leech- or physic-finger, and ear-finger.


  1. One of the five digits of the hand, especially one other than the thumb.

In addition to the idiom beginning with finger

  • finger in the pie, have a

also see:

  • at one’s fingertips
  • burn one’s fingers
  • cross one’s fingers
  • give someone the finger
  • lay a finger on
  • let slip (through the fingers)
  • not lift a finger
  • point the finger at
  • put one’s finger on
  • put the finger on
  • snap one’s fingers at
  • sticky fingers
  • twist around one’s finger
  • work one’s fingers to the bone

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