Having recently learned about frequentative forms, I began to wonder, is fiddle a frequentative form? I’ve seen the suggestion that
-lein this case was a pre-English formation, but the meaning “to touch or handle something in a nervous way,” as well as some of the others (such as playing a violin) have a distinctly frequentative idea which makes me question that claim. Also, it makes me wonder: how far back in the history of English does
-leto form frequentatives go?
Is there compelling evidence to decide the question of whether fiddle should be considered a frequentative form? If it is, what is the root form? (Or perhaps that assumes too much and I should also ask: Does a frequentative form always have a root, or would some actions only exist in a frequentative form?)
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) indicates that fiddle the verb (first OED citation from 1377) is derived from fiddle the noun (first OED citation “c1275”, second from 1377).
If that is correct, then the -le cannot have been added in English as the frequentative verb suffix.
Unfortunately, the etymology of the noun seems to be unclear. The OED gestures at Latin “vitula, vidula”, which looks to me like it has the common Latin diminutive suffix -ula. There was a question on Latin SE about vitula.