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 ?
Your days of playing second fiddle are over, especially to a First Minister who doesn't seem to know his arts from his elbow.
The 28-year-old has had enough of playing second fiddle, having done just that before moving from Hearts in the summer.
RICHARD BURNS is fed up playing second fiddle to British rival Colin McRae and aims to establish himself as top man in Sunday's New Zealand Rally.
CHELSEA goalkeeper CARLO CUDICINI has reaffirmed his determination to stay at the club despite the prospect of playing second fiddle to Petr Cech for another season.
Boss David O'Leary is itching to wrap up new deals for Juan Pablo Angel, Gareth Barry, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Ulises de la Cruz but Postma wants in first - even though he is playing second fiddle to Thomas Sorensen.
He has opted for regular first-team football with Rovers because he is sick of playing second fiddle to French international Emmanuel Petit.
Taylor reckons the 28,000 crowd will be looking to put 16 years of playing second fiddle behind them - the period Blues have been out of the top flight - by claiming the scalp of Villa.
That leaves Amerigo twiddling his thumbs, playing second fiddle to his father-in-law.
Noel Gallagher denies Oasis are playing second fiddle on U2's American tour.
The city has been in the doldrums for half a century and if the small town anti-development attitudes are not banished for good, we will always remain what we have almost become, a British backwater that has already fallen off national weathermaps, a place with a bleak future always banging on about the past, and possibly the only city of our size in the world that would even contemplate playing second fiddle to an ugly, charisma-free place 35 miles down the road.
The Iceland keeper is fed up playing second fiddle to Nick Colgan at Easter Road and will sign a three-year Bosman deal with the English Second Division outfit.
Greening has been told he will see some action despite being named among the substitutes and playing second fiddle to Loftus Road cult hero Trevor Leota.
Though he abhors the thought of playing second fiddle, Yoast agrees to coach defense when his white players risk their college careers by refusing to suit up for anyone else.
After playing second fiddle to John Thaw he struck out on his own in the hit medical series Peak Practice.
Herbivores usually don't receive top billing in dinosaur movies, playing second fiddle to those flesh-eating tyrannosaur terrors.