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fiddle +‎ -y, from the verb.



fiddly (comparative fiddlier, superlative fiddliest)

  1. Requiring dexterity to operate.
    The buttons on the tiny mobile phone were too fiddly.
  2. (by extension) Having many small bits or embellishments.
    • 1988, Road & Track - Volume 40, page 119:
      See, Barbados, like certain other fiddly little islands— Antigua, Saint Lucia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, Great Britain, Australia— is filled with a genus of hotspurs fiercely dedicated to motoring on the wrong side of the road.
    • 2004, John Charalambous, Furies, →ISBN, page 189:
      But the draping roses, and the double bell of dress and overskirt — fiddly, too bloody fiddly!
    • 2012, Martin O'Brien, The Dying Minutes, →ISBN, page 182:
      Plate after plate of fiddly Lebanese mezes that tasted of lemon and breadcrumbs and chopped coriander rather than the tidbits of lamb and beef and prawns that they covered, the whole tedious meal made only bearable by a very creditable Château Musar.
    • 2013, Robert Winder, The Little Wonder: The Remarkable History of Wisden, →ISBN:
      The cover, which was also the title page, promised an exhaustive collection of lists, tables, “extraordinary matches” and “other interesting information”, but the most cursory flick-through revealed only a sequence of cricket scorecards and a summary of the game's already fiddly laws.
  3. Of or relating to fiddling or fidgeting.
    • 2012, Terry Rummins, So, I've Got Parkinson's Disease (page 62)
      I can divide my movements into two types: gross motor and fine motor (in other words, large movements and small, fiddly movements) and, as I have already described, I have far more problems with the latter than the former.
  4. Pertaining to occasional under-the-table work by people who receive unemployment benefits
    • 2005, R. MacDonald, J. Marsh, Disconnected Youth?: Growing up in Britain’s Poor in Neighbourhoods, →ISBN:
      Because benefit dependence was understood to confine people to poverty ('bend the rules - you've got to in this world cause of the pittance you get off the government') and because doing fiddly work indicated a commitment to self-reliance ('at least they're working') it was widely condoned.
    • 2007, Justin Cruickshank, Realism and Sociology, →ISBN:
      The other mjinority group has, by being members of the appropriate social networks, access to fiddly jobs.
    • 2016, Richard K. Brown, The Changing Shape of Work, →ISBN, page 117:
      None of the normal conditions of employment (for example health and safety regulations, training, sickness benefits, etc.) were afforded to fiddly workers and when some suffered industrial injuries (at the steel works) no compensation was forthcoming.

Derived terms[edit]