play second fiddle


Also found in: Dictionary.

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 ?
Felipe Massa says he won't play second fiddle to team-mate Fernando Alonso
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.
Both sides have been forced to play second fiddle to Chelsea in recent seasons.
For Timmins mayor Vic Power, the Xstrata acquisition means his community won't appear to play second fiddle to Sudbury.
There are no guarantees that the next mayor will have education as high a priority as the current mayor does, and education is far too important to play second fiddle to any other agenda,'' he said.
The record of Britain's Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) is somewhat murky for the general reader, and its accomplishments definitely play second fiddle to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC).
The six-year-old has had to play second fiddle to Moscow Flyer and Azertyuiop more than once this season, but with the former elsewhere beat the latter by four lengths after jockey Timmy Murphy rode timed his run perfectly.
But evidently, even the march would have to play second fiddle to responding to an offhand quip in a movie.
Who exalts Herman Hertzberger today, or for that matter James Stirling, Robert Venturi or Michael Graves whose work was once so central to our architectural discourses but who now play second fiddle to Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Herzog & de Meuron?
Well, ever since the end of World War II the company has had to play second fiddle to the Bolshoi.
BOSTON -- According to the latest Strategy Analytics report, "Cellular Beats Convergence in In-Building Voice Battleground," the US will lead adoption of fixed mobile convergence (FMC), as the rest of the world sees FMC play second fiddle to cellular-only substitution.
FERRARI driver Felipe Massa claims he will walk away from Formula One the day he's forced to play second fiddle.