Play second fiddle



To play a supporting or minor role in relation to someone else: “Tired of playing second fiddle, she resigned and started her own company.” In an orchestra, the position of second violinist (fiddle) is not as glamorous as that of first violinist.

verb phrase

To be in an inferior position; lack power or will to lead: They won’t play second fiddle to their spouses anymore (1809+)
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.

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