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

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, 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

to regularly stay awake late and get up early because you are too busy I'm busy trying to get ready for the holidays and burning the candle at both ends.
See also: both, burn, candle, end

somebody/something can't hold a candle to somebody/something else

also somebody/something doesn't hold a candle to somebody/something else
someone or something is not as good as someone or something else For Walter, basketball and football can't hold a candle to baseball.
Usage notes: sometimes used in the form something can hold a candle to something else: Not one of her drawings can hold a candle to yours.
See also: candle, hold

burn the candle at both ends

to get little sleep or rest because you are busy until late every night and you get up early every morning (usually in continuous tenses) She'd been burning the candle at both ends studying for her exams and made herself ill.
See also: both, burn, candle, end

can't hold a candle to somebody/something

if someone or something cannot hold a candle to someone or something else, they are not as good as that other person or thing These pop bands that you hear nowadays can't hold a candle to the groups we used to listen to in the sixties.
See also: candle, hold

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

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.