This article is on the origin of the idiom as fit as a fiddle. It is said that

of course the 'fiddle' here is the colloquial name for violin. 'Fit' didn't originally mean healthy and energetic, in the sense it is often used nowadays to describe the inhabitants of gyms. When this phrase was coined 'fit' was used to mean 'suitable, seemly', in the way we now might say 'fit for purpose'.

Was a fiddle really so suitable? Anyway, even if a fiddle is or was always suitable, how is this fact connected with good health?

  • Research: phrases.org.uk/meanings/40250.html
    – user 66974
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 7:37
  • 2
    The expression goes back to the early 1600s, according to Christine Ammer, American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, who also says, "The original allusion of this simile has been lost. Its survival is probably due to to the pleasant sound of its alliteration." Still, it's a potentially interesting question—and one that seems not to have been asked at this site previously.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 7:37
  • 4
    In making idioms the use of alliteration was always very important. Compare your example with 'as cool as a cucumber'.
    – user307254
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 7:51
  • 1
    The expression's awkwardness today is perhaps reflected by the number of modern variations that reflect irony e.g. "as fit as a flea", "as fit as a ferret" etc.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 9:21

1 Answer 1


Know Your Phrase has this to say,

This phrase's origin is not clear. However, it may have something to do with the maintenance involved in keeping a musical instrument in good condition. Indeed, instruments like guitars, flutes, drums and others require a level of care to keep them in good shape and functioning properly.

For example, let's take a look at fiddles. These typically refer to stringed instruments, such as a violin (there is one portrayed in the picture above). In order to help a violin remain in a working state, its strings must be replaced if they break, tiny pegs need to be kept tightened, and it should be cleaned every now and then to prevent dust buildup. This sort of maintenance keeps the violin healthy or "fit," so to speak.

So at some point, it seems a person's health started to be compared to a well-maintained fiddle, though why this musical instrument was chosen out of all the others, that I do not know.

Anyhow, this saying goes back to at least the early 17th century. It's written in a book entitled English-men for my Money, by Haughton William in the year 1616. There's a part from it that reads:

"This is excellent ynfayth, as fit as a fiddle."

That means this expression is over 400 years old, and it could very well be much older.

I agree with @user307254's comment about alliteration.

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