Definition of fiddle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈfidl/


1 informal A violin, especially when used to play folk music.
Example sentences
  • This tradition is still at the heart of their music, with the female voices front-lining the instrumental textures of fiddle, guitars, accordion, bass and percussion.
  • He played violin, accordion, bass fiddle, and he would play any type of music.
  • Pedal steel and fiddle appear throughout the album, blending well with Paisley's drawl.
violin, viola
2 informal, chiefly British An act of defrauding, cheating, or falsifying: a major mortgage fiddle
More example sentences
  • It has been alleged that the scam centres around cash fiddles at the large store, which is in Ocotal Way.
  • As Mars and others have documented, this point would seem to apply to a wide range of occupational scams and fiddles, ranging from the top-floor board room to the basement boiler room.
  • Crikey readers have contributed a lot of stories on circulation rorts, fiddles and the like over the past week or so, but here's another tale, a bit historical, which would be hysterical if it wasn't serious.
3 Nautical A contrivance, such as a raised rim, that prevents things from rolling or sliding off a table in bad weather.
Example sentences
  • A fiddle is the guardrail that keeps objects like eyeglasses or ashtrays from falling off the ledge.
  • There is a cold moulded fiddle around the edge of the worktop with an integrated handrail.


1 [no object] Play the fiddle: he fiddled with the band from 1949 to 1951 (fiddling) country music with lots of fiddling and banjo playing
More example sentences
  • Britten's setting is mimetic and operatic, the piano part consisting of a stylisation of the boy's fiddling, notated on one stave only.
  • It's time to retrace your steps to the Temple Bar: the pubs will soon be opening, the black vials of Guinness swilling over the bar and the fiddlers beginning to fiddle…
  • This one-woman band fiddled and jigged from Dent to Barrow to Bradford during her recent winter tour, bringing a smile to the faces of shoppers across the North.
1.1 [with object] Play (a tune) on the fiddle: Bill Monroe fiddled his last tune at his annual Beanblossom Bluegrass Festival
More example sentences
  • He fiddles a melody of romance ‘in the shoulder-length dyed black hair and magnetic blue eyes’ of desolate Jasmine, the girl who does not smell like her flower of fancy.
  • They sing and fiddle Polish mountain music, not after the brass band, not with the brass band, but up against the brass band and the American folk songs and the bongo rhythm section.
2 [no object] Touch or fidget with something in a restless or nervous way: Laura fiddled with her cup
More example sentences
  • Jack fidgeted restlessly, fiddling with the chocolate bar in his hand.
  • Clancy nervously fiddled with his jacket zipper.
  • She nervously fiddled with the ties on her shirt.
fidget, play, toy, twiddle, fuss, fool about/around;
finger, thumb, handle
informal mess around/about
2.1Tinker with something in an attempt to make minor adjustments or improvements: never fiddle with an electric machine that’s plugged in
More example sentences
  • And, of course, being Mr BW, he just had to fiddle with it and attempt to get it working again.
  • To test the Adjuster, we retrieved a Browning Hi-Power from the gun safe and began to fiddle with the two adjustment screws.
  • When they charge towards you and spin around barking bubbles, there is very little time to adjust and fiddle with a camera.
adjust, tinker, play around, meddle, interfere
2.2 (fiddle around) Pass time aimlessly, without doing or achieving anything of substance.
Example sentences
  • While the West is busily burning itself to the ground, these guys are busy ‘binding the spirit’ of the Blessed Virgin and fiddling around with other time-wasting junk.
  • Success is what we're after, not fiddling around debating things to do with the internal workings of the party.
  • Now I'm having a ball just fiddling around and discovering how it works (which is basically how I've learnt everything I know about computers and most other things in life).
3 [with object] chiefly British Falsify (figures, data, or records), typically in order to gain money: everyone is fiddling their expenses
More example sentences
  • After being told that there is not enough local criminal activity to justify their station's existence, three incompetent policemen decide to start manufacturing crimes to fiddle the figures.
  • There is no question of fiddling the figures here.
  • In spite of the messages of genuine support - from all areas of the local medical fraternity in particular - the fact remains that the figures were fiddled.
falsify, manipulate, massage, rig, distort, misrepresent, doctor, alter, tamper with, interfere with
informal fix, flimflam, cook (the books)



fiddle while Rome burns

Be concerned with relatively trivial matters while ignoring the serious or disastrous events going on around one.
Example sentences
  • To ignore the internal threat is to fiddle while Rome burns.
  • Concentrating on the minutiae of a single procedural issue, rather than on developing the fundamental aims of planning and on the effective delivery of these aims, is merely fiddling while Rome burns.
  • Environmentalists, no doubt, will accuse Americans of fiddling while Rome burns.

(as) fit as a fiddle

In good health.
Example sentences
  • What keeps him youthful, healthy and fit as a fiddle?
  • He's as fit as a fiddle of course, lean and strong, just like a good Welsh farm cat should be.
  • When he took that dramatic fall last year, when he looks exhausted and looks pale, as he often does, sometimes he disappears from public view, but then he reappears looking fit as a fiddle and full of energy.

on the fiddle

British informal Engaged in cheating or swindling.
Example sentences
  • Now in spite of the fact Duke'd been on the fiddle, neither his wife nor his dreaded mother-in-law knew about his shenanigans.
  • The cross section of hospitals that were tested was only a fraction in the country and we can safely assume that statistically most of those will be on the fiddle too.
  • Our main suspicion was a sales droid on the fiddle.

play second fiddle to

Take a subordinate role to someone or something in a way often considered demeaning: she had to play second fiddle to the interests of her husband
More example sentences
  • To Labor, Australia's well-being plays second fiddle to the decisions of really important international committees.
  • He followed that up by justifying his new role at Barcelona, where he plays second fiddle in the creative stakes to Ronaldinho.
  • Playing in Chelsea's reserves isn't conditioning Parker to be an England international as he plays second fiddle to an expensive import.


Old Englishfithele, denoting a violin or similar instrument (originally not an informal or depreciatory term), based on Latin vitulari 'celebrate a festival, be joyful', perhaps from Vitula, the name of a Roman goddess of joy and victory. Compare with viol.

  • In Old English fiddle was the usual word for a stringed instrument like a violin, based on Latin vitulari ‘to celebrate, be joyful’, which may come from Vitula, the name of a Roman goddess of joy and victory. In the sense ‘to swindle’ fiddle was first used in the 1630s. The connection with the instrument probably came from the idea that the ‘fiddler’ or player could make people ‘dance to his tune’. Expressions like fiddle-de-dee and fiddle-faddle, meaning ‘nonsense’, come from the idea of violin-playing being a trivial or pointless exercise, and in turn fiddle-faddle is the origin of fad.

    When we criticize someone for concerning themselves with trivial affairs while ignoring serious matters, we may say that they are fiddling while Rome burns. This looks back to a story about the Roman emperor Nero. According to one historian, when Rome suffered from a disastrous fire Nero reacted by singing a song about the fall of Troy and accompanying himself on some instrument—not a fiddle, which had not been invented then. To play second fiddle is to take a less important role. The idea here is that you are there to support the person taking the leading part.

Words that rhyme with fiddle

griddle, kiddle, Liddell, middle, piddle, riddle, twiddle

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: fid·dle

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