Definition of fiddle in English:

fiddle

noun

  • 1informal A violin.

    • ‘‘Sin City’ is a traditional honky-tonk duet with Beck and Harris, complete with pedal steel and fiddle.’
    • ‘A lineup of virtuosic side players completes the songs with trombone, fiddle, banjo, ukulele, ragtime piano, and upright bass.’
    • ‘Fat with reverbed guitars and wafting fiddle, ‘Belles’ has by far the richest instrumental backdrop.’
    • ‘Classes will be held in tin whistle, sean nos singing, flute, fiddle and bodhrán.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In between the trumpet and the piano came various other efforts - fiddle, mandolin, even a bagpipe chanter.’
    • ‘Ellika Frisell is queen of traditional Swedish fiddle playing.’
    • ‘His father Gerry is a versatile musician on fiddle and mouth-organ.’
    • ‘Slaves had been playing fiddle as early as the seventeenth century.’
    • ‘So he took up harmonica, learning fiddle tunes and traditional bluegrass, and transferring them to his new instrument.’
    • ‘This collection is a good one to purchase for those interested in the role of the fiddle in Chicago-style polka music.’
    • ‘Set in a village, the tale describes how a destitute fiddler dies after entrusting his sick child and fiddle to the care of an old woman.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘From beginner to advance lessons, classes are available in all traditional musical instruments including fiddle, tin whistle, bodhrán, accordion and banjo.’
    • ‘Her voice dissolves among the slowly strummed guitar, brushed drums and mournful fiddle.’
    • ‘Hymns are accompanied by an ensemble that includes fiddle, acoustic guitar, wind chimes, pennywhistles, a Bodhran, and even bagpipes.’
    • ‘The play opens with considerable confusion as first two musicians, playing fiddle and piano-accordion, and then a crowd of undifferentiated characters drift into the dark cinema.’
    • ‘In the introduction, he distinguishes many different kinds of fiddles, the eleventh of which is the Viola d' amore.’
    • ‘The three instruments of Scotland's folk culture are the harp (clàrsach), bagpipe, and fiddle.’
    violin, viola, cello, double bass
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  • 2British informal An act of defrauding, cheating, or falsifying.

    ‘a major mortgage fiddle’
    • ‘That includes everything from tax evasion and very basic fiddles to money made from computer-game counterfeiting, people-smuggling and drug-dealing.’
    • ‘Unlike America, which has rushed to pass new legislation to curb corruption and reform auditing, Japan has done little to prevent a repeat of past accounting fiddles.’
    • ‘Peter Rook QC, prosecuting, said the elaborate fraud could not be described as ‘a cornershop fiddle.’’
    • ‘His job sometimes included actually working the fiddle, as with crooked roulette tables, to remove suspicion from the obvious source, the sharper himself.’
    • ‘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.’
    fraud, swindle, fix, wangle, confidence trick, ruse, wile, piece of deception, bit of sharp practice
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  • 3British informal A small task that seems awkward and unnecessarily complex.

    ‘inserting a tape is a bit of a fiddle’
    • ‘I got my Ps2 Network adaptor, it was a bit of a fiddle to set up but it works now.’
    • ‘Just having a fiddle trying to align my table cells a bit better!’
    • ‘A bit of a fiddle with the new Harry Cat story - it's taken on a life of its own and insists on going through at least a couple more versions.’
    • ‘Bread sauce would be nice with this, but it's a bit of a fiddle; I often just serve some good white bread.’
    • ‘There is still a small amount grown in South Taranaki, but it's a bit of a fiddle, according to Dunlop, with an aphid that attacks it now, meaning it must be sprayed.’
    • ‘I'm one of the few people I know who fixes hardware purely through the laying on of hands - sometimes I have a bit of a fiddle and pull things out before putting them back in, or generally twiddle knobs and such.’
  • 4Nautical
    A ledge or raised rim that prevents things from rolling or sliding off a table in rough seas.

    • ‘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.’

verb

  • 1no object Touch or fidget with something in a restless or nervous way.

    ‘Lena fiddled with her cup’
    • ‘He was sat at the end of the first row, his head down as he nervously fiddled with the straps on his back pack.’
    • ‘Feeling strangely out of place, DJ fiddled with her fingers in her lap and looked around nervously.’
    • ‘If his nervous demeanour - fiddling with his cigarette box, avoiding eye contact - rather belies his confidence with a camera, his work fortunately speaks for itself.’
    • ‘No one spoke for a moment as Delaney nervously fiddled with the strings of Keaton's sweatshirt again.’
    • ‘Baret sat down on the bed beside Marta, who kept her face downcast and fiddled with the sheets nervously.’
    • ‘Gracelin looked at her finger nails while Edward fiddled with a wooden spoon left on the kitchen counter.’
    • ‘Jack fidgeted restlessly, fiddling with the chocolate bar in his hand.’
    • ‘And that's why you shouldn't fiddle with your earrings.’
    • ‘Nervously, I fiddled with the ribbon sash on my straw hat.’
    • ‘Jack nervously fiddled with the damp ends of the towel.’
    • ‘I laughed nervously and fiddled with the loops on my sweatshirt.’
    • ‘A choreographer doesn't want to watch you fiddle with your hair or adjust your clothing.’
    • ‘‘I'm a freak,’ he said, still fiddling with something in his hands.’
    • ‘People began to greet the two of them, and Cally fiddled with her hands nervously.’
    • ‘She turned around, and fiddled with a fingernail.’
    • ‘Amy says that, for her daughter's sake, she has to be careful and that she no longer drinks; she starts to fiddle with her gold hoop earrings.’
    • ‘‘I prefer drawing,’ I offered, fiddling with my pencil a little.’
    • ‘Clancy nervously fiddled with his jacket zipper.’
    • ‘Jack looked away from the man, unsettled by his strange green eyes, and fiddled with his papers nervously.’
    • ‘She nervously fiddled with the ties on her shirt.’
    fidget, play, toy, twiddle, fuss, fool about, fool around, trifle
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    1. 1.1 Tinker with something in an attempt to make minor adjustments or improvements.
      ‘he fiddled with the blind, trying to prevent the sun from shining in her eyes’
      • ‘Plus, if you need to adjust the base charge a bit up-or-down, you just grab another dipper and don't have to fiddle with a mechanical powder measure adjustment.’
      • ‘So you pull them out, fiddle with them, and replace them, adjusting the rest of the poem to suit.’
      • ‘It's one of those dishes that's just crying out for some mandarin chicken salad and a scoop of ambrosia, held in one hand on a paper plate while you fiddle with the coffee urn with the other.’
      • ‘Wearing earplugs, safety glasses, and an improbably spotless white polo shirt, Lee steps between rolls of wire, fiddles with machines, then heads to his office to handle a client call.’
      • ‘It took me a long phone call to Apple, and a long trip to my friend's place to fiddle with the computer, to determine that he can view these files using the AppleWorks software he already has.’
      • ‘So when you tear through the shrink wrap to get to the actual album, you have to fiddle with this tight-fitting plastic sleeve before you can get to the CD.’
      • ‘When they charge towards you and spin around barking bubbles, there is very little time to adjust and fiddle with a camera.’
      • ‘Or else you can submit a ‘building notice’ to the local authority, saying how you propose to fiddle with the electrics in your kitchen.’
      • ‘To test the Adjuster, we retrieved a Browning Hi-Power from the gun safe and began to fiddle with the two adjustment screws.’
      • ‘Thankfully a little more fiddling got the tyre pumping up okay.’
      • ‘Every Prime Minister since then sought to fiddle with the format to extract maximum advantage - and make no mistake, the incumbent calls the tune.’
      • ‘And if you fiddle with it, there's even a way to get Travelaxe to display its list of hotels in geographic distance from a given location.’
      • ‘I had to fiddle with some of the color adjustments to get skin tones just right, and there was a noticeable ‘smoothing’ of textures.’
      • ‘When I was growing up there were two sorts of cameras, one where people could fiddle with a lens and get a perfect picture or an automatic which would do it all for you (my kind of camera).’
      • ‘Coinciding with A380's launch, the UK research journal Anaesthesia revealed that airlines allow pilots to fiddle with the oxygen supply.’
      • ‘Add to this another letter every time they fiddle with the terms and conditions, and another one every few months trumpeting some safety initiative and including a poster to stick up in the workplace.’
      • ‘But I can fiddle with the coding and fix that too.’
      • ‘The other concerns the RegEdit program, the haven of extreme geeks with a wish to fiddle with configuration settings the messy, dangerous, no safety harness way.’
      • ‘Tips on how to achieve contentment include regular holidays, scheduled time alone with a partner, plenty of exercise, fiddling with motorbikes, and cutting out television.’
      • ‘And, of course, being Mr BW, he just had to fiddle with it and attempt to get it working again.’
      tinker, play about, play around, tamper, meddle, interfere, monkey
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    2. 1.2fiddle around Pass time aimlessly, without doing or achieving anything of substance.
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘They had three children, all born at home; there is an anecdote of John fiddling around on a motorbike while Kirsteen, screaming, gave birth upstairs to son Sam.’
      • ‘At the time, I'm just fiddling around setting the thing up, and I can't remember whether that's good or bad.’
      • ‘Make a list of outdoor tasks that need doing at the beginning of the week and stick to it - fiddling around spontaneously can waste hours.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘While fiddling around in a recording studio, he stumbled on the technique of recording at half speed and then playing back at full speed.’
      • ‘With everything else you just spend your time fiddling around after the fact.’
      • ‘This is a marvellous technology, but at the same time there are people fiddling around.’
      • ‘I have been spending a bit more time than usual fiddling around at Technorati, recently, and I noticed that there is a tidal movement of Get Real's Technorati rank.’
      • ‘Missy J. and I are sitting here at the kitchen table fiddling around on our laptops and watching The Last Sign, which is almost as strange as the one we watched last night, The Final Cut.’
      • ‘Oh, since I'm still fiddling around in here… as you can see, the new computer desk arrived today.’
      • ‘She sat there fiddling around, and I turned my attention to the web.’
      • ‘This last Saturday was particularly productive as John's late night fiddling around produced some music that lyrics I wrote over the afternoon on Sat perfectly fit.’
  • 2British informal with object Falsify (figures, data, or records), typically in order to gain money.

    ‘everyone is fiddling their expenses’
    • ‘Well, I can't finish fiddling the figures on my financial forecast tonight, because I need a few facts that I have yet to find out.’
    • ‘Across Scotland, 1450 were caught fiddling the system to the tune of £10m - again only a fraction of total losses.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There will be no need for him to fiddle the figures: his exercise will start just as the market cools.’
    • ‘There have been a lot of allegations of postal votes being fiddled in many parts of our region, not least here in towns such as Blackburn, Burnley and Nelson.’
    • ‘So what if he'd fiddled his taxes and done business with crooks?’
    • ‘A large proportion of farmers found to be fiddling the system are based within three kilometres of the border with the North.’
    • ‘The records were fiddled to make the crime stats look good.’
    • ‘John Waters of the Irish Times said on radio on Saturday that he would have fiddled tax back then if he could have got away with it.’
    • ‘There seems to be some surprise in political circles here that an international company such as Gama might have been fiddling their workforce.’
    • ‘The whole recovery from that crisis was based on fiddling the figures.’
    • ‘While he was shooting, I wandered over to the computerized score sheet and tried to see if I could fiddle it.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Governments can no longer convince people they aren't fiddling the figures.’
    • ‘The whistleblower who revealed that a hospital was fiddling figures about cancelled operations has won the right to appeal against his sacking.’
    • ‘These companies are not the only ones fiddling their figures.’
    • ‘There is no question of fiddling the figures here.’
    • ‘There must be people fiddling the books there, or stealing from the cookie jar, or -?’
    • ‘Wong accused his lawyers of negligence and his opponent's lawyers of fiddling their charges.’
    • ‘We have already had the scandal of the closed lists and now we find that there is another way of fiddling the figures by putting more people on the deferred list.’
    falsify, manipulate, massage, rig, distort, pervert, misrepresent, juggle, doctor, alter, tamper with, interfere with
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  • 3informal no object Play the violin.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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…’
    • ‘Britten's setting is mimetic and operatic, the piano part consisting of a stylisation of the boy's fiddling, notated on one stave only.’

Phrases

  • fiddle while Rome burns

    • Be concerned with relatively trivial matters while ignoring the serious or disastrous events going on around one.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Or perhaps you could knit instead - Scarlett Johansson and Sarah Jessica Parker do it between takes - the modern equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns.’
      • ‘I see the Conservatives on Swindon Council have nothing better to do than fiddle while Rome burns.’
      • ‘This astounding piece of fiddling while Rome burns was written no doubt to the sound of whalesong and the pungent aroma of joss sticks.’
      • ‘It's easy to get destroyed if we react in a stereotypical way - we castle into the attack and then fiddle while Rome burns.’
      • ‘To fiddle while Rome burns is neither new nor unique to our community.’
      • ‘The late Leo Strauss once said of men such as Ignatius that they fiddle while Rome burns, but that they are excused by two facts.’
      • ‘The University, forgetting about software, and forgetting about the future of the stream, fiddling while Rome burns, or whatever it does, thinks that it's going to come to grips with the world by putting course notes on the Web.’
      • ‘Environmentalists, no doubt, will accuse Americans of fiddling while Rome burns.’
      • ‘To ignore the internal threat is to fiddle while Rome burns.’
  • (as) fit as a fiddle

    • In very good health.

      • ‘‘I had my share of publicity when I was young,’ says Joe Isaacs, now 81 and fit as a fiddle.’
      • ‘I'm no spring chicken any more but I feel fit as a fiddle and if I can help beat the Germans, I'm sure as hell not going to be beaten in a little scrap like this.’
      • ‘Rufus has been fit as a fiddle lately except for a cough which didn't seem to bother him or his appetite.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘Before the war I was fit as a fiddle - now sometimes I can barely get out of bed,’ he said.’
      • ‘He's as fit as a fiddle of course, lean and strong, just like a good Welsh farm cat should be.’
      • ‘My immediate impression was that, if anything, the smiling, goodhumoured Dan, who looked fit as a fiddle, appeared to have got a few years younger.’
      • ‘What keeps him youthful, healthy and fit as a fiddle?’
      • ‘Now imagine being turned down or paying exorbitant sums for life insurance and health coverage by companies that deem you too high a risk even though you feel fit as a fiddle.’
      • ‘For fitness buffs, summer is the best time to keep fit as a fiddle.’
      robust, healthy, in good health, hale and hearty, strong, strong as an horse, strong as an lion, strong as an ox, sturdy, fine, fit, in good condition, in tip-top condition, in good shape, in good trim, in good kilter
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  • on the fiddle

    • informal Engaged in cheating or swindling.

      • ‘We will continue to remind ourselves that those listed in this report were not necessarily on the fiddle.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • play second fiddle

    • Have a subordinate role to someone or something; be treated as less important than someone or something.

      ‘the story line plays second fiddle to the action’
      ‘she is tired of playing second fiddle to her thoughtless friend’
      • ‘He followed that up by justifying his new role at Barcelona, where he plays second fiddle in the creative stakes to Ronaldinho.’
      • ‘After a year of shooting and research, this powerful documentary exposes the greasy facts: Canadian democracy plays second fiddle to the tune of big-money, mega-farm hog exports.’
      • ‘The walls of the Flynn home, where Padraig, believe it or not, plays second fiddle to Dorothy, is cluttered with paintings and art works and is testimony to his interest in art.’
      • ‘The interest in gooey bobs, pink worms, corkies, yarn and roe, though still topical, now plays second fiddle to trout-related discussion.’
      • ‘Yet Senegal, a nation of three million souls, have announced their arrival on the world stage and the Republic of Ireland, where football plays second fiddle to the Gaelic sports, are also through to the second round.’
      • ‘She no longer has to play second fiddle to her husband, and more importantly, is free to wear high heels once again.’
      • ‘Playing in Chelsea's reserves isn't conditioning Parker to be an England international as he plays second fiddle to an expensive import.’
      • ‘To Labor, Australia's well-being plays second fiddle to the decisions of really important international committees.’
      • ‘However to the credit of all the players they upped the level of their performance several notches on the turnover and for lengthy second half spells had Wexford playing second fiddle.’
      • ‘Thankfully, this drearily predictable comedy of social class plays second fiddle to the drama's more compelling exploration of the metamorphoses of both Rita and her relationship with Frank.’

Origin

Old English fithele, denoting a violin or similar instrument (originally not an informal or depreciatory term), related to Dutch vedel and German Fiedel, 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.

Pronunciation

fiddle

/ˈfɪd(ə)l/