1. A violin, especially one used to play folk or country music.
2. Nautical A guardrail used on a table during rough weather to prevent things from slipping off.
3. Informal Nonsensical, trifling matters: "There are things that are important / beyond all this fiddle" (Marianne Moore).
4. Chiefly British An instance of cheating or swindling; a fraud.
v. fid·dled, fid·dling, fid·dles
1. To play a fiddle.
2. To touch or handle something in a nervous way: fiddled with the collar of his shirt as he spoke.
3. To make unskilled efforts at repairing or improving: fiddled with the broken toaster.
4. To meddle or tamper: a reporter who fiddled with the facts.
5. Chiefly British To commit a fraud, especially to steal from one's employer.
1. To play (a tune) on a fiddle.
2. Chiefly British To alter or falsify for dishonest gain: fiddled the figures in the report.
To act foolishly, playfully, or without a clear sense of purpose: Quit fiddling around and get to work!
To waste or squander: fiddled away the morning browsing the internet.
[Middle English fidle, from Old English fithele.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.