play second fiddle

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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 someone)

Fig. to be in a subordinate position to someone. I'm tired of playing second fiddle to John. I'm better trained than he, and I have more experience. I shouldn't always play second fiddle.
See also: fiddle, play, second

play second fiddle

Assume a subsidiary role to someone, as in Mary resented always playing second fiddle to her older sister. This term alludes to the part of second violin in an orchestra. Although many would argue it is as important as first violin, it is the idea of subordinacy that was transferred in the figurative term, so used since about 1800.
See also: fiddle, play, second

play second fiddle

COMMON If someone or something plays second fiddle to someone or something else, they are less important than them. There is some resentment among health professionals at having to play second fiddle in the new structure. Both of these cities play second fiddle to London on the international stage. Note: You can also just say that someone is second fiddle. I think Caryl would have to admit that we're no longer second fiddle to our American cousins. Note: A fiddle is a violin. The expression here refers to the first and second violins in an orchestra.
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

play second ˈfiddle

have a lower or less important position than another person: She wants to be the boss, not play second fiddle to somebody else. OPPOSITE: call the shots/the tune
Fiddle is an informal word for ‘violin’.
See also: fiddle, play, second
References in periodicals archive ?
In 1975 Chicago played second fiddle to A Chorus Line, which danced off with the Tony honors.
For years the resort played second fiddle to Boyne Mountain, but no more.
Striker Vokes played second fiddle to the free-scoring Austin at Turf Moor before his rival was sold to QPR.
The Renault driver has played second fiddle to Schumacher's Ferrari for the last two races, tasting defeat again at the Nurburgring to see his championship lead trimmed to 13 points.
Flannery has played second fiddle to Frankie Shea-han at Munster, but with his rival recovering from a serious neck injury he has been given the chance to impress.
THIS is the moment rockers Speedway played second fiddle to Scotland's newest singing talent Paolo Nutini.
Claire Kundin, who's been married to Harry for 62 years, jokes how throughout her lifetime she's played second fiddle to his commitment to the military in his earlier years and to the DAV in his later years.
Photography by no means played second fiddle to Charles Sheeler's work as a Precisionist painter.