play second fiddle to

play second fiddle

To have a subordinate, lesser, or smaller role, position, or part (in something). I'm really sick of playing second fiddle to this ignoramus—I'm the one who deserves to be the star of the show! Because I wasn't willing to play office politics, I never got the big promotion and have been playing second fiddle ever since.
See also: fiddle, play, second

play second fiddle to

take a subordinate role to someone or something.
The expression derives from the respective roles of the fiddles or violins in an orchestra. Both play first fiddle and play third fiddle are much less common. The implication of playing second fiddle is often that it is somewhat demeaning.
1998 Times In A Yank at Oxford she played second fiddle to Vivien Leigh, which never got anyone very far.
See also: fiddle, play, second
References in classic literature ?
Nicholson was ambitious for his family (in which, and the Disruption Principles, he entirely lived), and he hated to see a son of his play second fiddle to an idler.
Xabi is in a similar situation, where he will play second fiddle to new signing Toni Kroos for the coming campaign.
Ronaldo has won the award once before, back in 2008 while at Manchester United, but since then he has had to play second fiddle to Messi in the voting, finishing runner-up three times as the Argentinian claimed the crown four times.
Summary: Comedian and actor Russell Brand had to play second fiddle to the Dalai Lama on Saturday night.
Gibbon had to play second fiddle to Talbot Ladies Open title holder Maureen Perkins at the last-32 stage, losing out 21-17 to the eventual champion, who went on to defeat Mid Cheshire's Wendy Allen 21-16 in the final.
Gold admitted the cup has to play second fiddle to West Ham staying in the Premier League.
At a Republic of Ireland press conference looking ahead to tomorrow's friendly with Argentina, Given made it clear he is not prepared to play second fiddle to Joe Hart.
Ferrari's decision has effectively ensured Massa will now have to play second fiddle to Alonso for the remainder of the season.
JONNY WILKINSON had to play second fiddle to his England skipper Steve Borthwick as Saracens beat Toulon at Vicarage Road.
Goalkeeper Alexander has said he will consider quitting the club if he continues to play second fiddle to Allan McGregor.
But he has had to play second fiddle to Benoit Assou-Ekotto this campaign.
KIRKLAND And although he had to play second fiddle to Kenya's Simon Tonui, he produced a new lifetime best of two hours 23 minutes 55 seconds, which was nearly five minutes faster than his second place last year.
Other nations often work in tandem at major events but Yamauchi refuses to play second fiddle to fellow Briton Radcliffe.
SHOCK summer signing Chris Killen surveyed the cosmopolitan stars that surround him at Celtic and insisted: "I'm not here to play second fiddle to anyone.
BEN FOSTER has thrown down the gauntlet to Sir Alex Ferguson by insisting he won't play second fiddle to Edwin van der Sar at Old Trafford next season, writes STEVE BATES.