Definition of fiddle in English:



  • 1informal A violin, especially when used to play folk music.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Slaves had been playing fiddle as early as the seventeenth century.’
    • ‘Fat with reverbed guitars and wafting fiddle, ‘Belles’ has by far the richest instrumental backdrop.’
    • ‘So he took up harmonica, learning fiddle tunes and traditional bluegrass, and transferring them to his new instrument.’
    • ‘Ellika Frisell is queen of traditional Swedish fiddle playing.’
    • ‘Pedal steel and fiddle appear throughout the album, blending well with Paisley's drawl.’
    • ‘This collection is a good one to purchase for those interested in the role of the fiddle in Chicago-style polka music.’
    • ‘In the introduction, he distinguishes many different kinds of fiddles, the eleventh of which is the Viola d' amore.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A lineup of virtuosic side players completes the songs with trombone, fiddle, banjo, ukulele, ragtime piano, and upright bass.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Her voice dissolves among the slowly strummed guitar, brushed drums and mournful fiddle.’
    • ‘From beginner to advance lessons, classes are available in all traditional musical instruments including fiddle, tin whistle, bodhrán, accordion and banjo.’
    • ‘The three instruments of Scotland's folk culture are the harp (clàrsach), bagpipe, and fiddle.’
    • ‘‘Sin City’ is a traditional honky-tonk duet with Beck and Harris, complete with pedal steel and fiddle.’
    • ‘Hymns are accompanied by an ensemble that includes fiddle, acoustic guitar, wind chimes, pennywhistles, a Bodhran, and even bagpipes.’
    • ‘He played violin, accordion, bass fiddle, and he would play any type of music.’
    • ‘His father Gerry is a versatile musician on fiddle and mouth-organ.’
    • ‘Classes will be held in tin whistle, sean nos singing, flute, fiddle and bodhrán.’
    violin, viola, cello, double bass
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  • 2British informal An act of defrauding, cheating, or falsifying.

    ‘a major mortgage fiddle’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘That includes everything from tax evasion and very basic fiddles to money made from computer-game counterfeiting, people-smuggling and drug-dealing.’
    • ‘It has been alleged that the scam centres around cash fiddles at the large store, which is in Ocotal Way.’
    • ‘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.’
    fraud, swindle, fix, wangle, confidence trick, ruse, wile, piece of deception, bit of sharp practice
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  • 3Nautical
    A contrivance, such as a raised rim, that prevents things from rolling or sliding off a table in bad weather.

    • ‘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’
    ‘country music with lots of fiddling and banjo playing’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Britten's setting is mimetic and operatic, the piano part consisting of a stylisation of the boy's fiddling, notated on one stave only.’
    1. 1.1[with object]Play (a tune) on the fiddle.
      ‘Bill Monroe fiddled his last tune at his annual Beanblossom Bluegrass Festival’
      • ‘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’
    • ‘‘I'm a freak,’ he said, still fiddling with something in his hands.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Clancy nervously fiddled with his jacket zipper.’
    • ‘He was sat at the end of the first row, his head down as he nervously fiddled with the straps on his back pack.’
    • ‘She turned around, and fiddled with a fingernail.’
    • ‘Nervously, I fiddled with the ribbon sash on my straw hat.’
    • ‘I laughed nervously and fiddled with the loops on my sweatshirt.’
    • ‘Gracelin looked at her finger nails while Edward fiddled with a wooden spoon left on the kitchen counter.’
    • ‘And that's why you shouldn't fiddle with your earrings.’
    • ‘A choreographer doesn't want to watch you fiddle with your hair or adjust your clothing.’
    • ‘Jack fidgeted restlessly, fiddling with the chocolate bar in his hand.’
    • ‘‘I prefer drawing,’ I offered, fiddling with my pencil a little.’
    • ‘Feeling strangely out of place, DJ fiddled with her fingers in her lap and looked around nervously.’
    • ‘Jack nervously fiddled with the damp ends of the towel.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘People began to greet the two of them, and Cally fiddled with her hands nervously.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Baret sat down on the bed beside Marta, who kept her face downcast and fiddled with the sheets nervously.’
    • ‘No one spoke for a moment as Delaney nervously fiddled with the strings of Keaton's sweatshirt again.’
    fidget, play, toy, twiddle, fuss, fool about, fool around, trifle
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    1. 2.1Tinker with something in an attempt to make minor adjustments or improvements.
      ‘never fiddle with an electric machine that's plugged in’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘So you pull them out, fiddle with them, and replace them, adjusting the rest of the poem to suit.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Or else you can submit a ‘building notice’ to the local authority, saying how you propose to fiddle with the electrics in your kitchen.’
      • ‘Thankfully a little more fiddling got the tyre pumping up okay.’
      • ‘To test the Adjuster, we retrieved a Browning Hi-Power from the gun safe and began to fiddle with the two adjustment screws.’
      • ‘And, of course, being Mr BW, he just had to fiddle with it and attempt to get it working again.’
      • ‘When they charge towards you and spin around barking bubbles, there is very little time to adjust and fiddle with a camera.’
      • ‘I had to fiddle with some of the color adjustments to get skin tones just right, and there was a noticeable ‘smoothing’ of textures.’
      • ‘But I can fiddle with the coding and fix that too.’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Coinciding with A380's launch, the UK research journal Anaesthesia revealed that airlines allow pilots to fiddle with the oxygen supply.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Every Prime Minister since then sought to fiddle with the format to extract maximum advantage - and make no mistake, the incumbent calls the tune.’
      tinker, play about, play around, tamper, meddle, interfere, monkey
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    2. 2.2Pass time aimlessly, without doing or achieving anything of substance.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This is a marvellous technology, but at the same time there are people fiddling around.’
      • ‘She sat there fiddling around, and I turned my attention to the web.’
      • ‘Oh, since I'm still fiddling around in here… as you can see, the new computer desk arrived today.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘With everything else you just spend your time fiddling around after the fact.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘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.’
  • 3British [with object] Falsify (figures, data, or records), typically in order to gain money.

    ‘everyone is fiddling their expenses’
    • ‘There must be people fiddling the books there, or stealing from the cookie jar, or -?’
    • ‘Governments can no longer convince people they aren't fiddling the figures.’
    • ‘Across Scotland, 1450 were caught fiddling the system to the tune of £10m - again only a fraction of total losses.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A large proportion of farmers found to be fiddling the system are based within three kilometres of the border with the North.’
    • ‘There seems to be some surprise in political circles here that an international company such as Gama might have been fiddling their workforce.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘While he was shooting, I wandered over to the computerized score sheet and tried to see if I could fiddle it.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There will be no need for him to fiddle the figures: his exercise will start just as the market cools.’
    • ‘The whole recovery from that crisis was based on 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These companies are not the only ones fiddling their figures.’
    • ‘The records were fiddled to make the crime stats look good.’
    • ‘There is no question of fiddling the figures here.’
    • ‘So what if he'd fiddled his taxes and done business with crooks?’
    falsify, manipulate, massage, rig, distort, pervert, misrepresent, juggle, doctor, alter, tamper with, interfere with
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  • 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Environmentalists, no doubt, will accuse Americans of fiddling while Rome burns.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To ignore the internal threat is to 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.’
  • (as) fit as a fiddle

    • In good health.

      • ‘‘Before the war I was fit as a fiddle - now sometimes I can barely get out of bed,’ he said.’
      • ‘For fitness buffs, summer is the best time to keep 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.’
      • ‘He's as fit as a fiddle of course, lean and strong, just like a good Welsh farm cat should be.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘What keeps him youthful, healthy and 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.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We will continue to remind ourselves that those listed in this report were not necessarily 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 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He followed that up by justifying his new role at Barcelona, where he plays second fiddle in the creative stakes to Ronaldinho.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She no longer has to play second fiddle to her husband, and more importantly, is free to wear high heels once again.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 interest in gooey bobs, pink worms, corkies, yarn and roe, though still topical, now plays second fiddle to trout-related discussion.’
      • ‘Playing in Chelsea's reserves isn't conditioning Parker to be an England international as he plays second fiddle to an expensive import.’
      • ‘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.’


Old English fithele, 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.