Burning the Candle at Both Ends: Have You Ever Heard this Common Idiom?

Last Updated on May 27, 2021

You may have heard the phrase ‘burning the candle at both ends’ many times in conversation. But have you ever wondered where this saying comes from and what it means? We are going to take a look at the origins of this saying and how we can use it in every day speech.

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Burning the Candle at Both Ends Meaning

The meaning of the idiom ‘burning the candle at both ends’ refers to a person who is taking on an immense amount of tasks and therefore is struggling to function normally in their life. It talks about doing too much and ending up totally exhausted, perhaps someone who is not looking after themselves correctly because they are putting all of their focus into working.

Origin of this idiomatic phrase

This phrase is believed to have come from the French saying Brusler la chandelle par les deux bouts which has the same meaning. The term came from the 1800s when candles were of great value and it was seen as wasteful if one were to literally burn a candle at both ends, in the same way that the metaphorical sense implies that exhausting oneself is a great waste of energy.

“Burning the Candle at Both Ends” Examples

You could use the saying ‘burning the candle at both ends’ when you are talking about someone who is working themselves far too hard. You could also use it to describe how you are feeling when you have many tasks to complete and not enough time to do them in.

Conversation examples:

You might hear this phrase used in conversations which are similar to the following examples.

Conversation 1:

  • Person 1: “Peter has been spending a lot of time at work lately. He is so tired.”
  • Person 2: “I’m not surprised, burning the candle at both ends like that.”

Conversation 2:

  • Person 1: “I haven’t seen much of you recently. Have you been busy?”
  • Person 2: “Very, I’m burning the candle at both ends trying to finish all my work.”

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

Other ways in which you might express the meaning of the term ‘burning the candle at both ends’ would be as follows.

  • Living a fast paced life
  • Exhausting yourself
  • Work hard
  • Overwork
  • Work overtime
  • Endeavor

Burning the Candle at Both Ends | Picture

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