sticky fingers


to have sticky fingers

Meaning | Synonyms

  • keep objects that don’t belong to you
  • the inclination or tendency to steal
  • to be likely to steal something
  • steal small amounts of cash or valuables

Example Sentences

  1. Money had started disappearing from the treasury coffers so, they realised that someone had sticky fingers.
  2. One of the new staff had sticky fingers because the books never seemed to balance anymore.
  3. That waiter has got sticky fingers. I just saw him put our cash in his trouser pocket.
  4. A lot of things have gone missing lately from the store cupboard. Do you think someone has sticky fingers?
  5. I hope he doesn’t leave any cash lying around when the family visit. His uncle is a little sticky-fingered.


This phrase is from Britain in the mid-1800s and is a metaphor suggesting that if someone has a tendency to steal then valuable items and cash naturally ‘adhere’ to their hands. The phrase is used more for a petty thief rather than a hardened criminal though for example, a shop worker stealing cash from the till, rather than an armed robber stealing from a bank.

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According to other trivia sources, petty theft, ie “sticky fingers” came from the gold mining industry where those sifting the dig plate put sap/honey on their fingers to collect gold dust When weighing for payment. Thus, stealing from the gold finder & pocketing value from the bankers. (Of course, this could be a myth retold by my grandfather – born in 1899 – from his mining grandfather!)

‒ EJ September 5, 2020

Thanks a lot for sending the idioms. I have noted good writers using idioms very effectively. Sometime back I read the use of idiom’s like ‘CARRYING COAL TO NEWCASTLE’. I heard there is no more coal mining in England but the idiom has remained as powerful.
English is not my mother tongue but like idioms.
I have saved your address.

‒ Ramesh Joshi April 29, 2020

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