Burning the Midnight Oil


What does Burning the Midnight Oil mean?

Burning the midnight oil is a popular idiom referring to the act of staying up late in the night.

The phrase is connected to the lanterns and lamps of the olden days, which ran on oil.

It is commonly performed in situations where one says I Don’t Need Sleep, I Need Answers.


What's the origin of Burning the Midnight Oil?

The phrase itself first appeared in print in 1574, in the book of Egerton Castle, published under the title English Book-Plates Ancient and Modern.

It also appears in the 1635 book of Frances Quarles: Emblemes where he uses “Burning the midnight oil” to refer to the insomniac nature of a hardworking man, who was laboring even at night, by candlelight.

Spread & Usage

How did Burning the Midnight Oil spread?

“Burning the midnight oil” became a commonly used idiomatic phrase, referring to the preferred act of Night Owls – staying up late.

The expression gained a larger presence in the lingo during the 19th century, going strong in the 20th as well, appearing in print, literary works as well as music.

Such cases are the studio album of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton: The Right Combination/Burning the Midnight Oil, released in 1972, as well as the name of the Australian band Midnight Oil.

External resources

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