candle

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candle in the wind

Something that is particularly vulnerable, weak, fragile, or precarious and likely to fail, perish, or be eliminated at any moment. The revolutionaries' bid for freedom is but a candle in the wind at this point, likely to be crushed by the dictator's regime. We all like to think we'll live forever, but we are really just candles in the wind.
See also: candle, wind

doesn't hold a candle

Is not nearly as good or desirable as someone or something else. Can also be used with "can't." The sequel wasn't bad, but it doesn't hold a candle to the original. John's fast all right, but he can't hold a candle to Louise!
See also: candle, hold

The game is not worth the candle.

The outcome, product, or returns of this activity or undertaking are not worth the time and resources that it requires. An allusion to gambling by candlelight, a significant expense at one point in time. If the winnings were not sufficient, then they didn't warrant the needless use of a candle. The local council considered the construction of a new power grid throughout the county, but because it would cost millions and only marginally increase efficiency compared to the current infrastructure, they decided that the game wasn't worth the candle.
See also: game, not, worth

not worth the candle

Said of an activity or undertaking whose outcome, product, or returns are not worth the time and resources that it requires. An allusion to gambling by candlelight, a significant expense at one point in time. If the winnings were not sufficient, then they didn't warrant the needless use of a candle. The local council considered the construction of a new power grid throughout the county, but because it would cost millions and only marginally increase efficiency compared to the current infrastructure, they decided that it wasn't worth the candle.
See also: candle, not, worth

burn the candle at both ends

To overwork or exhaust oneself by doing too many things, especially both late at night and early in the morning. Oh, Denise is definitely burning the candle at both ends—she's been getting to the office early and staying very late to work on some big project.
See also: both, burn, candle, end

can't hold a candle to (someone or something)

Cannot compare to someone or something; is not nearly as good or desirable as someone or something. The sequel wasn't bad, but it can't hold a candle to the original. John's fast all right, but he can't hold a candle to Louise!
See also: candle, hold

bell, book, and candle things that are miraculous or that signal that something

unusual or bizarre may soon happen. (Alluding originally to the items used when performing the rite of excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.) Look, I can't work miracles! Do you expect me to show up at your house with bell, book, and candle, and make everything right? You have to take charge of your own destiny! On the top shelf of the tiny used-book store, Jim saw a bell, book, and candle sitting in a row, and he knew he was going to find some very interesting reading material.
See also: and, candle, signal, that, thing

burn the candle at both ends

Fig. to work very hard and stay up very late at night. (One end of the candle is work done in the daylight, and the other end is work done at night.) No wonder Mary is ill. She has been burning the candle at both ends for a long time. You'll wear out if you keep burning the candle at both ends.
See also: both, burn, candle, end

can't hold a candle to someone

Fig. not [to be] equal to someone; unable to measure up to someone. (Also with cannot.) Mary can't hold a candle to Ann when it comes to athletics. As for singing, John can't hold a candle to Jane.
See also: candle, hold

not hold a stick to someone or something

 and not hold a candle to someone or something
Fig. not to be nearly as good as someone or something. Sally is much faster than Bob. Bob doesn't hold a stick to Sally. This TV doesn't hold a candle to that one. That one is much better.
See also: hold, not, stick

burn the candle at both ends

Exhaust one's energies or resources by leading a hectic life. For example, Joseph's been burning the candle at both ends for weeks, working two jobs during the week and a third on weekends . This metaphor originated in France and was translated into English in Randle Cotgrave's Dictionary (1611), where it referred to dissipating one's wealth. It soon acquired its present broader meaning.
See also: both, burn, candle, end

game is not worth the candle, the

The returns from an activity or enterprise do not warrant the time, money or effort required. For example, The office he is running for is so unimportant that the game's not worth the candle. This expression, which began as a translation of a term used by the French essayist Michel de Montaigne in 1580, alludes to gambling by candlelight, which involved the expense of illumination. If the winnings were not sufficient, they did not warrant the expense. Used figuratively, it was a proverb within a century.
See also: game, not, worth

hold a candle to, not

Also, not fit to or cannot hold a candle to. Be inferior to someone or something, as in This hotel can't hold a candle to the Palace, or This new friend of his is not fit to hold a candle to his former buddies. This expression was already a proverb in John Heywood's collection of 1546 and alludes to holding a candle to provide light for someone, at that time considered a menial chore.
See also: candle, hold, not

burn the candle at both ends

If you burn the candle at both ends, you try to do too much, regularly going to bed late and getting up early in the morning. Try not to exhaust yourself by burning the candle at both ends. Frank seemed to delight in burning the candle at both ends. No matter how late he stayed out, he was up at five o'clock the next morning to study.
See also: both, burn, candle, end

can't hold a candle to someone/something

If you are comparing two people or things and you say that the first can't hold a candle to the second, you mean that the second is much better than the first. None of these teams can hold a candle to the sides led by Franz Beckenbauer in the early 70s. Newspapers, books and radio cannot hold a candle to television. Note: This expression suggests that the first person does not even deserve to hold a light to help the other person to see.
See also: candle, hold, something

not worth the candle

BRITISH, OLD-FASHIONED
If something is not worth the candle, it is not worth the trouble or effort which is needed in order to achieve or obtain it. Harrison has described the reforms proposed by the governor as `not worth the candle'. Note: You can also talk about the game being worth the candle. He can boast that he married the richest woman in the world. But he must sometimes wonder whether the game was worth the candle. Note: This expression originally referred to a game of cards where the amount of money that people were competing for was less than the cost of the candle used up during the game.
See also: candle, not, worth

bell, book, and candle

a formula for laying a curse on someone.
This expression alludes to the closing words of the rite of excommunication, ‘Do to the book, quench the candle, ring the bell’, meaning that the service book is closed, the candle put out, and the passing bell rung, as a sign of spiritual death.
See also: and, candle

burn the candle at both ends

1 lavish energy or resources in more than one direction at the same time. 2 go to bed late and get up early.
See also: both, burn, candle, end

cannot hold a candle to

be nowhere near as good as. informal
In the 16th century, an assistant would literally hold a candle to his superior by standing beside him with a candle to provide enough light for him to work by. The modern version suggests that the subordinate is so far inferior that he is unfit to perform even this humble task.
See also: candle, cannot, hold

not worth the candle

not justifiable because of the trouble or cost involved.
The idea behind this idiom is that expenditure on a candle to provide light for an activity would not be recouped by the profits from that activity. The expression comes from the French phrase le jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle , ‘the game is not worth the candle’.
1998 New Scientist But what if, instead of one … five, fifteen or fifty people…have to endure such an existence? At what point does the game cease to be worth the candle?
See also: candle, not, worth

burn the candle at both ˈends

make yourself very tired by doing too much, especially by going to bed late and getting up early: You look exhausted. Been burning the candle at both ends, have you?
See also: both, burn, candle, end

cannot hold a candle to somebody/something

(informal) is not as good as somebody or something else: She is a good player, but she can’t hold a candle to a champion like Jane. OPPOSITE: put somebody/something in the shadeIn the past, an assistant used to hold a candle for somebody more senior so that they could have light to do their work. This idiom implies that even this position is too good for the person mentioned.

the ˌgame is not worth the ˈcandle

(old-fashioned, saying) something is not worth the effort needed: After trying to get permission to build the office for a whole year, we gave up, because the game was just not worth the candle.In the past, candles were used for light at night. If a game or an activity was not worth the cost of the candles required to light the room, it was not worth playing or doing.
See also: candle, game, not, worth

hold a candle to

To compare favorably with: This film doesn't hold a candle to his previous ones.
See also: candle, hold

burn the candle at both ends

Extreme effort without time to rest. The phrase, which came originally from a French expression, came to mean working so hard that you burn yourself out. In addition, because candles were once an expensive item, to burn one at both ends implied wasting valuable resources to achieve an obsession. The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay used the image in her verse: My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends— It gives a lovely light
See also: both, burn, candle, end
References in classic literature ?
Suddenly a gust of wind beat violently against the casement of the window, from which the double frame had been removed (by order of the prince, one window frame was removed in each room as soon as the larks returned), and, forcing open a loosely closed latch, set the damask curtain flapping and blew out the candle with its chill, snowy draft.
The dumbly-tortured figure in the chair; the broad window opposite the foot of the bed, with the black night beyond it; the candle burning on the table-- these, and all other objects in the room, remained unaltered.
He soon spied them out, and putting down the candle, deliberately proceeded to cast them into the fire: palette, paints, bladders, pencils, brushes, varnish: I saw them all consumed: the palette-knives snapped in two, the oil and turpentine sent hissing and roaring up the chimney.
He took one of the candles, lit it carefully, came back and stuck it in the neck of the whisky bottle.
To make matters worse, the candle went out and father and son were left in the dark.
He saw that a sigh was held back in her throat, and the little hand in the long glove shook as it held the candle.
He who came upon him so unexpectedly was about to break his rest by thrusting him with his foot, when, glancing at his upturned face, he arrested himself in the very action, and stooping down and shading the candle with his hand, examined his features closely.
Then, he took up the candle, and shading it with his murderous hand so as to throw its light on me, stood before me, looking at me and enjoying the sight.
let fall the candle in her fright, and then finding herself in the dark, turned about to make off, but stumbling on her skirts in her consternation, she measured her length with a mighty fall.
No, no; the candle will last long enough--I shall soon be up to walking home now.
Then he passed through the same door as before, and the light of the candle framed it in the darkness and shot one single yellow beam across the gloom of the corridor.
Without looking at me, he snatched the candle from the table on which it stood by the bedside, and carried it to a bureau at the opposite side of the room.
two inches of sallow, sorrowful, consumptive tallow candle, that
You were talking about yourself," replied the Roman Candle.
Mombi bade the boy light a candle, while she put her basket in a cupboard and hung her cloak on a peg.