Can’t hold a candle to

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Can’t hold a candle to is an interesting idiom with its roots in the 1600s. We will look at the meaning of the phrase can’t hold a candle to, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Can’t hold a candle to means to not be as good as something or someone else, to be less skillful or otherwise unfit when compared to something or someone else. Can’t hold a candle to is an idiom, which is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. The phrase can’t hold a candle to has its roots in the 1600s, when the lowly apprentice to a master of a craft might only be fit to hold a candle in order to provide light for the master while he tends to a problem. An apprentice who was not even skillful enough to hold a candle for his master was worthless, indeed. The earliest known citation for this term is from 1641 in The fower cardinal-vertues of a Carmelite fryar by Sir Edward Dering: “Though I be not worthy to hold the candle to Aristotle.”


There’s not an iron on the planet that can hold a candle to PXG,” says Perez, who joins fellow PGA Tour players James Hahn, Billy Horschel, Charles Howell III, Zach Johnson, Chris Kirk, Ryan Moore and Charl Schwartzel as PXG endorsers. (Forbes Magazine)

Neither can hold a candle to the Crowd, which came in hot and ecstatic and entirely ill-prepared to broadcast. (The New Zealand Herald)

Not even the best seats in the grandstand would hold a candle to the view of the action from here. (The Santa Barbara Independent)