Definition of fiddle in English:

fiddle

noun

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

    • ‘In between the trumpet and the piano came various other efforts - fiddle, mandolin, even a bagpipe chanter.’
    • ‘Hymns are accompanied by an ensemble that includes fiddle, acoustic guitar, wind chimes, pennywhistles, a Bodhran, and even bagpipes.’
    • ‘Ellika Frisell is queen of traditional Swedish fiddle playing.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Her voice dissolves among the slowly strummed guitar, brushed drums and mournful fiddle.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Slaves had been playing fiddle as early as the seventeenth century.’
    • ‘He played violin, accordion, bass fiddle, and he would play any type of music.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘So he took up harmonica, learning fiddle tunes and traditional bluegrass, and transferring them to his new instrument.’
    • ‘‘Sin City’ is a traditional honky-tonk duet with Beck and Harris, complete with pedal steel and 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.’
    • ‘In the introduction, he distinguishes many different kinds of fiddles, the eleventh of which is the Viola d' amore.’
    • ‘His father Gerry is a versatile musician on fiddle and mouth-organ.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A lineup of virtuosic side players completes the songs with trombone, fiddle, banjo, ukulele, ragtime piano, and upright bass.’
    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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Peter Rook QC, prosecuting, said the elaborate fraud could not be described as ‘a cornershop fiddle.’’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘His job sometimes included actually working the fiddle, as with crooked roulette tables, to remove suspicion from the obvious source, the sharper himself.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It has been alleged that the scam centres around cash fiddles at the large store, which is in Ocotal Way.’
    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.’

verb

informal
  • 1no object Play the fiddle.

    ‘he fiddled with the band from 1949 to 1951’
    ‘country music with lots of fiddling and banjo playing’
    • ‘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. 1.1with 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.’
  • 2no object Touch or fidget with something in a restless or nervous way.

    ‘Laura fiddled with her cup’
    • ‘I laughed nervously and fiddled with the loops on my sweatshirt.’
    • ‘No one spoke for a moment as Delaney nervously fiddled with the strings of Keaton's sweatshirt again.’
    • ‘People began to greet the two of them, and Cally fiddled with her hands nervously.’
    • ‘She turned around, and fiddled with a fingernail.’
    • ‘Jack fidgeted restlessly, fiddling with the chocolate bar in his hand.’
    • ‘Gracelin looked at her finger nails while Edward fiddled with a wooden spoon left on the kitchen counter.’
    • ‘Baret sat down on the bed beside Marta, who kept her face downcast and fiddled with the sheets nervously.’
    • ‘Jack nervously fiddled with the damp ends of the towel.’
    • ‘She nervously fiddled with the ties on her shirt.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A choreographer doesn't want to watch you fiddle with your hair or adjust your clothing.’
    • ‘He was sat at the end of the first row, his head down as he nervously fiddled with the straps on his back pack.’
    • ‘Nervously, I fiddled with the ribbon sash on my straw hat.’
    • ‘‘I'm a freak,’ he said, still fiddling with something in his hands.’
    • ‘Feeling strangely out of place, DJ fiddled with her fingers in her lap and looked around nervously.’
    • ‘And that's why you shouldn't fiddle with your earrings.’
    fidget, play, toy, twiddle, fuss, fool about, fool around, trifle
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    1. 2.1 Tinker with something in an attempt to make minor adjustments or improvements.
      ‘never fiddle with an electric machine that's plugged in’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To test the Adjuster, we retrieved a Browning Hi-Power from the gun safe and began to fiddle with the two adjustment screws.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I had to fiddle with some of the color adjustments to get skin tones just right, and there was a noticeable ‘smoothing’ of textures.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But I can fiddle with the coding and fix that too.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When they charge towards you and spin around barking bubbles, there is very little time to adjust and fiddle with a camera.’
      • ‘So you pull them out, fiddle with them, and replace them, adjusting the rest of the poem to suit.’
      • ‘And, of course, being Mr BW, he just had to fiddle with it and attempt to get it working again.’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Coinciding with A380's launch, the UK research journal Anaesthesia revealed that airlines allow pilots to fiddle with the oxygen supply.’
      • ‘Or else you can submit a ‘building notice’ to the local authority, saying how you propose to fiddle with the electrics in your kitchen.’
      • ‘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.’
      tinker, play about, play around, tamper, meddle, interfere, monkey
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    2. 2.2fiddle around Pass time aimlessly, without doing or achieving anything of substance.
      • ‘At the time, I'm just fiddling around setting the thing up, and I can't remember whether that's good or bad.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘Success is what we're after, not fiddling around debating things to do with the internal workings of the party.’
      • ‘She sat there fiddling around, and I turned my attention to the web.’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Oh, since I'm still fiddling around in here… as you can see, the new computer desk arrived today.’
      • ‘This is a marvellous technology, but at the same time there are people fiddling around.’
      • ‘With everything else you just spend your time fiddling around after the fact.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘While fiddling around in a recording studio, he stumbled on the technique of recording at half speed and then playing back at full speed.’
  • 3British with object Falsify (figures, data, or records), typically in order to gain money.

    ‘everyone is fiddling their expenses’
    • ‘The whistleblower who revealed that a hospital was fiddling figures about cancelled operations has won the right to appeal against his sacking.’
    • ‘There seems to be some surprise in political circles here that an international company such as Gama might have been fiddling their workforce.’
    • ‘Across Scotland, 1450 were caught fiddling the system to the tune of £10m - again only a fraction of total losses.’
    • ‘The records were fiddled to make the crime stats look good.’
    • ‘While he was shooting, I wandered over to the computerized score sheet and tried to see if I could fiddle it.’
    • ‘There will be no need for him to fiddle the figures: his exercise will start just as the market cools.’
    • ‘Wong accused his lawyers of negligence and his opponent's lawyers of fiddling their charges.’
    • ‘The whole recovery from that crisis was based on fiddling the figures.’
    • ‘There must be people fiddling the books there, or stealing from the cookie jar, or -?’
    • ‘There is no question of fiddling the figures here.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A large proportion of farmers found to be fiddling the system are based within three kilometres of the border with the North.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘Governments can no longer convince people they aren't fiddling the figures.’
    • ‘So what if he'd fiddled his taxes and done business with crooks?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These companies are not the only ones fiddling their figures.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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
    View synonyms

Phrases

  • fiddle while Rome burns

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

      • ‘Environmentalists, no doubt, will accuse Americans of fiddling while Rome burns.’
      • ‘It's easy to get destroyed if we react in a stereotypical way - we castle into the attack and then fiddle 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This astounding piece of fiddling while Rome burns was written no doubt to the sound of whalesong and the pungent aroma of joss sticks.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To ignore the internal threat is to 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.’
  • (as) fit as a fiddle

    • In good health.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘What keeps him youthful, healthy and fit as a fiddle?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      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
      View synonyms
  • 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The interest in gooey bobs, pink worms, corkies, yarn and roe, though still topical, now plays second fiddle to trout-related discussion.’
      • ‘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.’

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

/ˈfidl//ˈfɪdl/