cannot hold a candle to

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

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.
References in periodicals archive ?
The collected fiendishness of Frankenstein, Dracula, Freddy, Chucky, the Mummy, Norman Bates's mommy, and Rosemary's baby cannot hold a candle to the terror wrought by an insecure actor, a monomaniacal director, or a stalking camera.
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