verb (used without object), fid·dled, fid·dling.

verb (used with object), fid·dled, fid·dling.


    fine as a fiddle, South Midland and Southern U.S. fiddle(def 15).
    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.
    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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for fiddle

Contemporary Examples of fiddle

Historical Examples of fiddle

  • Why, inside two weeks he'll be fit as a fiddle, and inside a month he'll be his own self!

  • For he had been painfully conscious now and then that he played but second fiddle.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • So the lad seated himself, and placed his fiddle in position.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • I know how to play 'Little lambkins, come down,' if I only had a fiddle.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • And the teacher opened the door, and took his fiddle from its place on the wall.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

British Dictionary definitions for fiddle



informal any instrument of the viol or violin family, esp the violin
a violin played as a folk instrument
time-wasting or trifling behaviour; nonsense; triviality
nautical a small railing around the top of a table to prevent objects from falling off it in bad weather
British informal an illegal or fraudulent transaction or arrangement
British informal a manually delicate or tricky operation
at the fiddle or on the fiddle informal engaged in an illegal or fraudulent undertaking
face as long as a fiddle informal a dismal or gloomy facial expression
fit as a fiddle informal in very good health
play second fiddle informal to be subordinate; play a minor part


to play (a tune) on the fiddle
(intr often foll by with) to make restless or aimless movements with the hands
(when intr, often foll by about or around) informal to spend (time) or act in a careless or inconsequential manner; waste (time)
(often foll by with) informal to tamper or interfere (with)
informal to contrive to do (something) by illicit means or deceptionhe fiddled his way into a position of trust
(tr) informal to falsify (accounts, etc); swindle

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for fiddle

late 14c., fedele, earlier fithele, from Old English fiðele, which is related to Old Norse fiðla, Middle Dutch vedele, Dutch vedel, Old High German fidula, German Fiedel; all of uncertain origin.

Perhaps from Medieval Latin vitula "stringed instrument," which is perhaps related to Latin vitularia "celebrate joyfully," from Vitula, Roman goddess of joy and victory, who probably, like her name, originated among the Sabines [Klein, Barnhart]. Unless the Medieval Latin word is from the Germanic ones.

Fiddle has been relegated to colloquial usage by its more proper cousin, violin, a process encouraged by phraseology such as fiddlesticks, contemptuous nonsense word fiddlededee (1784), and fiddle-faddle. Fit as a fiddle is from 1610s.


late 14c., from fiddle (n.); the figurative sense of "to act nervously or idly" is from 1520s. Related: Fiddled; fiddling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

fiddle in Culture


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.

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.