Ever heard someone say, “You can’t hold a candle to…” and wondered how on earth the phrase came to be? Well, that’s why you’re here, isn’t it? To illuminate this seemingly shadowy idiom, let’s hold up a metaphorical candle to it. No worries, we’re not setting anything on fire…at least, not literally!
Hold a Candle to Meaning Explained
So, here’s the deal: Can’t hold a candle to is an idiom we use to compare two things, usually in a way that states one thing is clearly inferior or less impressive than another. If someone can’t hold a candle to something or someone, they’re not on the same level—they’re not as good, competent or effective.
Doesn’t Hold a Candle to or Can’t Hold a Candle To?
So, can’t hold a candle to or doesn’t hold a candle to? Which one is the better fit? Well, it’s your call. Both versions convey the same idea. So, pick the one that rolls off your tongue the best!
Can’t Hold a Candle to Origin and Etymology
The origin of this idiom harks back to the pre-electricity era when apprentices would hold candles to light the work of skilled craftsmen. If someone couldn’t hold a candle to another person, it meant they weren’t even qualified to be their assistant. It’s believed to have first been recorded in English in Sir Edward Dering’s “The fower cardinal-vertues of a Carmelite fryar in 1641.”
Can’t Hold a Candle to Synonyms
Want some new ways to say the same old thing? Check out these alternatives I whipped up.
- Not in the same league as
- No match for
- Pales in comparison to
- Doesn’t measure up to
- Not fit to tie the shoes of
Can’t Hold a Candle to Examples in a Sentence
Here’s the full phrase in use!
- His new car is nice, but it can’t hold a candle to his old classic Mustang.
- Even the best homemade pizza can’t hold a candle to pizza in Naples.
- No offense, but your rendition of the song doesn’t hold a candle to the original.
- Her previous performances were great, but they can’t hold a candle to her latest show.
- Despite their efforts, other tech companies simply can’t hold a candle to Apple’s innovative design.
- The sequel to the movie was good but didn’t hold a single candle to the original.
- Their love for each other couldn’t hold a candle to their love for their dog.
- My mom’s homemade cookies simply can’t hold a candle to store-bought ones. Sorry, mom!
- Their new album doesn’t hold a candle to their debut.
- Even the best coffee chains can’t hold a candle to a carefully crafted home brew.
Can’t Handle the Candle?
Looks like we’ve reached the end of this illuminating guide. Just keep in mind that if something can’t hold a candle to something else, it simply means it’s not quite up to par. Keep shining a light on your language skills with our other guides.