Burning the Candle at Both Ends


What does Burning the Candle at Both Ends mean?

Burning the candle at both ends is a popular idiomatic phrase, used to describe someone as overworking themselves, laboring from the break of dawn until late at night.

The phrase used to also carry a different meaning of spending one’s wealth rapidly, through lavish spendings and an extravagant lifestyle.

A related expression, describing the act of working tirelessly in the night is Burning the Midnight Oil.


What's the origin of Burning the Candle at Both Ends?

Similar to the expression Devil is Beating His Wife, “Burning the candle at both ends” was adopted into the English language from French.

It first appeared in an English publication in the 1611 “Dictionary” of Randle Cotgrave, where the expression was defined as “dissipating one’s wealth”.

Spread & Usage

How did Burning the Candle at Both Ends spread?

Over the centuries, the metaphorical idiom became a popular one across the entire Anglosphere, as well as the rest of the globe, although its aforementioned original meaning had changed significantly.

By the 19th century, “Burning the candle at both ends” carried the same meaning as it does today, describing someone as overextending themselves through work, or through the combination of partying and labor.

Today, it may be encountered in a vast variety of contexts, both in conversations, as a colloquialism, as well as various forms of media, including novels, music or movies.

“Burning the candle at both ends” was first defined on Urban Dictionary on May 24th, 2004, with several other entries to follow suit.

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