[ fid-l ]
See synonyms for: fiddlefiddling on

  1. a musical instrument of the viol family.

  2. violin: Her aunt plays first fiddle with the state symphony orchestra.

  1. Nautical. a small ledge or barrier raised in heavy weather to keep dishes, pots, utensils, etc., from sliding off tables and stoves.

  2. British Informal. swindle; fraud.

verb (used without object),fid·dled, fid·dling.
  1. to play on the fiddle.

  2. to make trifling or fussing movements with the hands (often followed by with): fiddling with his cuffs.

  1. to touch or manipulate something, as to operate or adjust it; tinker (often followed by with): You may have to fiddle with the antenna to get a clear picture on the TV.

  2. to waste time; trifle; dally (often followed by around): Stop fiddling around and get to work.

  3. British Informal. to cheat.

verb (used with object),fid·dled, fid·dling.
  1. to play (a tune) on a fiddle.

  2. to trifle or waste (usually used with away): to fiddle time away.

  1. Bookbinding. to bind together (sections or leaves of a book) by threading a cord through holes cut lengthwise into the back.

  2. British Informal.

    • to falsify: to fiddle the account books.

    • to cheat: to fiddle the company out of expense money.

Idioms about fiddle

  1. fine as a fiddle, South Midland and Southern U.S. fiddle (def. 15).

  2. fit as a fiddle, in perfect health; very fit: The doctor told him he was fit as a fiddle.: Also as fit as a fiddle.

  1. play second fiddle. second fiddle.

Origin of fiddle

before 1000; Middle English; Old English fithele (cognate with German Fiedel,Dutch vedel,Old High German fidula) probably <Vulgar Latin *vītula (cf. viol, viola1), perhaps derivative of Latin vītulārī to rejoice

Words Nearby fiddle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use fiddle in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for fiddle


/ (ˈfɪdəl) /

  1. informal any instrument of the viol or violin family, esp the violin

  2. a violin played as a folk instrument

  1. time-wasting or trifling behaviour; nonsense; triviality

  2. nautical a small railing around the top of a table to prevent objects from falling off it in bad weather

  3. British informal an illegal or fraudulent transaction or arrangement

  4. British informal a manually delicate or tricky operation

  5. at the fiddle or on the fiddle informal engaged in an illegal or fraudulent undertaking

  6. face as long as a fiddle informal a dismal or gloomy facial expression

  7. fit as a fiddle informal in very good health

  8. play second fiddle informal to be subordinate; play a minor part

  1. to play (a tune) on the fiddle

  2. (intr often foll by with) to make restless or aimless movements with the hands

  1. (when intr, often foll by about or around) informal to spend (time) or act in a careless or inconsequential manner; waste (time)

  2. (often foll by with) informal to tamper or interfere (with)

  3. informal to contrive to do (something) by illicit means or deception: he fiddled his way into a position of trust

  4. (tr) informal to falsify (accounts, etc); swindle

Origin of fiddle

Old English fithele, probably from Medieval Latin vītula, from Latin vītulārī to celebrate; compare Old High German fidula fiddle; see viola 1

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for fiddle


Another name for the violin; fiddle is the more common term for the instrument as played in folk music and bluegrass.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with fiddle


In addition to the idiom beginning with fiddle

  • fiddle while Rome burns

also see:

  • fit as a fiddle
  • hang up (one's fiddle)
  • play second fiddle

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.