lift a finger

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Compare 1769, Oxford Standard text, King James Bible, Matthew, xxiii, 4 — For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.


lift a finger ‎(third-person singular simple present lifts a finger, present participle lifting a finger, simple past and past participle lifted a finger)

  1. Used other than as an idiom: see lift,‎ finger.
    • 2010, Katharine Rapoport, Violin For Dummies,
      So if your next note involves lifting a finger, you need to plan to lift the finger promptly to above its spot on the string so that it's ready to play again at any time.
  2. (idiomatic) To make minimal effort; to help as little as possible.
    • 1973, Kenya National Assembly Official Record (Hansard): June 12 - July 27, page 904,
      They weep when they see the country being so much exploited and yet nobody lifts a finger.
    • 2004, Gerald Shapiro, Little men: novellas and stories‎, page 6:
      You've known about it all along, you haven't lifted a finger, so don't come crying to me. I don't have time for it.
    • 2005, Larry T. McGehee, B. J. Hutto, Southern Seen: Meditations on Past and Present, page 80,
      Lifting a finger to greet is dangerous because it may make us feel guilty about not lifting a finger to help.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Most often used in the negative.