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Burn the candle at both ends

Burn the candle at both ends is a fairly old idiom. We will look at the meaning of the term burn the candle at both ends, where it comes from, and some examples of the idiom’s meaning in sentences.

To burn the candle at both ends means to exhaust oneself by working too much, going to bed late and getting up early. When one burns the candle at both ends, he is living at a frenetic pace. The term burn the candle at both ends is derived from the French phrase Brusler la chandelle par les deux bouts. Coined around the beginning of the seventeenth century, the early meaning of burn the candle at both ends was to be a spendthrift, to be wasteful. Candles were expensive, and burning both ends of a candle used it up much faster. Eventually the candle in question came to symbolize one’s life force, and burning the candle at both ends meant to use of one’s life force too quickly, to exhaust oneself by working too much.


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Examples

“Going on the dating scene has been hard but you can only burn the candle at both ends for so long and I’ve burnt them down to the point of destruction.” (The Liverpool Echo)

Perhaps you’ve spent some late nights at work because of special meetings or projects that could only be done in the evenings, but you tend to burn the candle at both ends. (The Marshall Independent)

The only danger is you may burn the candle at both ends and your work will suffer, but as dangers go it’s a chance worth taking. (The Globe & Mail)

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