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You are watching: Burning a candle at both ends


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It has actually two meanings.

If you acquired a candle, and also somehow fixed it come something in the middle, climate you could quite literally light both ends.

While creating slightly an ext light, this would certainly waste her candle by utilizing it double as fast. This is the only an interpretation the OED gives, with the very first citation gift from the 1736 Dictionarium Britannicum:

The Candle burns in ~ both Ends. Said as soon as Husband and Wife are both Spendthrifts.

Another sense periodically used is the if one is working specifically long hours, climate one need to light a candle in ~ one finish of the day, together one starts in the dark that the morning, and also at the other, as one end in the dark the the evening.

This feeling though is maybe a folk-etymology that what was originally meant through saying that such a human is gift wasteful—hence the first sense—of "life"s candle", yet they might perhaps it is in otherwise thrifty.


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reply Feb 12 "14 at 11:41
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Jon HannaJon Hanna
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burn the candle in ~ both ends is an idiom meaning to exhaust oneself, esp by gift up late and getting up early to work; to work exceptionally or excessively hard; to occupational too tough for great health or peace of mind. Worsened by also "partying hard" on optimal of working difficult (but not a essential component to the definition).

A candle lit at both ends will burn up much more than twice as quickly/last less than half as lengthy as one lit on one end alone.

From www.phrases.org.uk

it was first coined in the 1700s. The "both ends" climate weren"t the ends of the day yet were a literal recommendation to the 2 ends the a candle. Candle were useful and an important and the notion of waste suggested by lighting both ends at once implied reckless waste. This thought may well have actually been accentuated through the fact that candles might only be lit in ~ both end when organized horizontally, which would cause them to drip and also burn out quickly.

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Nathan Bailey defined the term in his Dictionarium Britannicum, 1730, whereby time the expression had already been given a figurative interpretation and also the both ends were a husband and wife:

The Candle burns in ~ both Ends. Said as soon as Husband and Wife are both Spendthrifts.

Randle Cotgrave tape-recorded it in A Dictionarie of the French and also historicsweetsballroom.com Tongues, 1611:

Brusler la chandelle par les deux bouts.

Edna St. Vincent Milay had a different take on life to the fullest/living "hard"

from Figs and Thistles: an initial Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns in ~ both ends; It will certainly not critical the night; but ah, mine foes, and oh, my friends— It gives a lovely light!