Definition of candle in English:



  • 1A cylinder or block of wax or tallow with a central wick which is lit to produce light as it burns.

    ‘the candle flickered in the cold night air’
    ‘an iced cake with nine lighted candles on it’
    • ‘If the candle is put out the light disappears, but if the candle begins to melt and we touch the end of the dying candle to a new candle, then the light continues.’
    • ‘The candles were lit in front of a portrait of Florence Nightingale.’
    • ‘They light candles and incense and kneel down to pray before the image.’
    • ‘I'd light candles in the small, pink room that I slept in to make it more homely.’
    • ‘At 8 a.m. the mayor lit the candles and incense and nine monks led the religious ceremonies.’
    • ‘An inquest heard that the fire started after friends of Mr Wright lit candles in his flat while he had gone out drinking with a friend.’
    • ‘Participants are asked to bring candles, lanterns and torches.’
    • ‘Posters highlighted the extra dangers the festive season brings - including the use of candles and fairy lights.’
    • ‘We sometimes light candles when it grows dark, but we don't use them in the bedrooms as we think it is too dangerous.’
    • ‘Light candles and burn oils to create a restful and tranquil environment.’
    • ‘There was no light, and a huge rainstorm blew in - we just lit a bunch of candles, and it was pretty amazing.’
    • ‘You could burn incense sticks or light a scented candle.’
    • ‘As I prayed this weekend, I lit the candles in our little shrine and found it focused my prayers beautifully.’
    • ‘All the parents were given little red candles to light and then people could leave them there or bring them home.’
    • ‘He was waiting, candles burning, flickering on the beautifully set table.’
    • ‘During power outages exercise caution when using candles as a light source.’
    • ‘Winstanley climbed up to the lantern and lit a dozen tallow candles.’
    • ‘The name of every passenger who boarded at Cobh and later died at sea was read out and 79 candles were lit in their honour.’
    • ‘Readings, poems and music chosen by relatives were included in the service, during which candles were lit in memory of those who died.’
    • ‘The swimming pool was decorated with fairy lights and floating candles and a table for the intimate party of 12 was set outside.’
    • ‘She produces a lighter and the single candle on the table flickers into life alongside the vase of white flowers’
    taper, sconce
    tallow candle, wax candle, christmas candle, votary candle, paschal candle
    wax light, glim, rush candle, rushlight
    bougie, cierge
    View synonyms
  • 2Physics
    A unit of luminous intensity, superseded by the candela.

    • ‘The unit of light intensity in the USA, England and France is the international candle.’
    • ‘The national laboratories of the United States of America, France, and Great Britain decided to adopt the international candle represented by carbon filament lamps.’
    • ‘The intensity of a 60-watt lamp is very nearly 60 candles.’
    • ‘The abscissae give the brilliance measured in international candles per square millimetre.’
    • ‘Physicists would tell us that the brightness or lightness of a surface is measured in candles and lumens.’


  • (of a poultry breeder) test (an egg) for freshness or fertility by holding it to the light.

    ‘the egg was candled—it was fertile’
    • ‘Information recorded for all nests in all years included date found, incubation stage determined by floatation or candling, and status (parasitized or not parasitized).’
    • ‘Eggs were collected and replaced with dummy eggs after 4 days of incubation or when candling revealed signs of development.’
    • ‘Stage of incubation was determined by candling and by flotation as calibrated for Canvasback eggs (M. G. Anderson and B. D. Sullivan unpubl. data).’
    • ‘To illustrate, consider a nest found during the incubation stage and that candling of the eggs revealed they were close to hatching.’
    • ‘To estimate nest age, we candled 1-2 eggs in each nest or aged nestlings from voucher photographs of known-age young.’
    • ‘To estimate this time period, we visited each bird's burrow early in the breeding season and determined the current incubation stage by egg candling.’
    • ‘Eggs were candled at 13 days, and unhatched eggs at 20 days of incubation were opened to allow classification of down color.’
    • ‘Eggs were candled to determine stage of incubation and to estimate hatching dates.’
    • ‘Eggs were labeled with a permanent marker, candled to estimate the stage of development, weighed to the nearest 0.5 g using a spring scale, and measured (length and width) to the nearest 0.1 mm with calipers.’
    • ‘Eggs were candled to determine incubation stage, and laying dates were calculated by backdating.’
    • ‘Nest initiation dates were estimated by candling incubating nests and assuming an incubation period of 24 to 26 days for hatching nests.’
    • ‘‘Incubating’ females were collected from nests whose age was known based on candling of eggs.’
    • ‘They bought or traded for eggs, which they candled to determine if they were good.’
    • ‘After 3 days of incubation, embryo development was checked by candling with an ORBAN candling lamp.’
    • ‘We found nests during incubation, and estimated the hatching date by candling eggs.’
    • ‘At three days, eggs can be candled for fertility.’
    • ‘He candled the eggs - checking them against a flame for defects - and took deliveries, but left grammar school with no wish to join the business.’
    • ‘Eggs to be examined for hatching success were candled by using a portable candler at both the mid-stage and late-stage of parental incubation to determine embryo developmental stage and viability.’


  • be able to hold a candle to

    • informal [with negative]Be nearly as good as.

      ‘nobody in the final could hold a candle to her’
      • ‘I'd return the favor but you know I couldn't hold a candle to you.’
      • ‘He dropped out of school at 16 because books couldn't hold a candle to golf and began studying visiting professionals.’
      • ‘After all, I was writing only small bits of code; nothing I did could hold a candle to what a real program, running on the desktop of someone's computer, could do.’
      • ‘But for me, they still can't hold a candle to the old Liverpool team of the late 70s and early 80s.’
      • ‘At that time, Ric couldn't hold a candle to what they were doing.’
      • ‘Maybe it's because he knows most of the groups clogging up the airwaves today can't hold a candle to his songwriting skills.’
      • ‘The surprise 25th birthday party my husband threw for me was unbelievable, but it couldn't hold a candle to this night.’
      • ‘Actually, this brand can't hold a candle to serious European dark chocolates, but it's fine in a pinch.’
      • ‘Kiffmeyer obviously can't hold a candle to Harris's achievements.’
      • ‘It was felt that the shadow he cast was so great, there couldn't possibly be a composer who could hold a candle to his colossal talent.’
  • the game's not worth the candle

    • The potential advantages to be gained from doing something do not justify the cost or trouble involved.

      ‘she may decide the game's not worth the candle and walk away from the discussions’
      ‘they may find that aggressive expansion is not worth the candle’
      • ‘What Lindsay Anderson called poetic naturalism, or what we're trying to accomplish - dense, indicative realism presented as a collage - is easily dismissed as not worth the candle.’
      • ‘They should have looked at the bottom line and said civilisation was not worth the candle.’
      • ‘Shinty should cherish him while it can or he might just decide the game is not worth the candle.’
      • ‘Too often entry to university is easy and many degrees are not worth the candle.’
      • ‘Mr Curry reckons that the minor powers on offer to the mini-parliaments are not worth the candle, so people of Yorkshire and elsewhere should vote against it.’
      • ‘I've always thought that if you have to work at it and you're not happy, it's not worth the candle.’
      • ‘'Taxwise, it is just not worth the candle any more,' said a source in Bank of Ireland.’
      • ‘The conditions and concessions almost made the game not worth the candle, but cumulative frustration brought Russia to declare war in April 1877.’


Old English candel, from Latin candela, from candere be white or glisten.