The phrase "burn the candle at both ends" is a popular idiom used to describe a situation where someone works too hard or tries too much at once. This idiom is often used to describe someone working long hours, juggling multiple responsibilities, or simply trying to do too much in a short time. The imagery of the idiom suggests that one is using up all of their energy or resources, similar to how a candle would burn out quickly if it were lit at both ends.
"Burn the candle at both ends" means to work excessively hard or to exhaust oneself by trying to do too much at once.
The idiom has a single primary meaning, which relates to exhausting oneself by doing too much work or taking on too many responsibilities. This idiom suggests that the person is overexerting themselves mentally or physically and may eventually exhaust their energy or resources. People frequently use the phrase as a warning, suggesting that someone should slow down or take a break before reaching the point of exhaustion.
The idiom primarily means one thing, but you can apply it in various situations to describe someone overexerting themselves. For example, you might use it to talk about someone pulling long hours at work, managing multiple responsibilities between home and job, or simply trying to do too much in too little time.
The French poet Edna St. Vincent Millay first coined the idiom in her 1918 poem "First Fig."
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
In the poem, Millay is essentially saying that although living life in a carefree, intense manner can be draining, it is also exhilarating. So the next time you find yourself wanting to make it up by putting in those extra hours, remember that balance is key.
To fully grasp the meaning and usage of the idiom, let's look at some example sentences.
This phrase has appeared numerous times in movies, songs, and books.
There are other ways to express the same concept; for example:
It means that you're overworking yourself or doing too much at once, which can be harmful in the long run.
The phrase is generally attributed to the French poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who used it in her poem "First Fig" in 1918.
Yes, it's a common idiom that's widely understood to mean overworking oneself or being too busy.
Generally, yes. It implies that the person is risking their health or well-being by doing too much.
It's rare, but some people may use it to indicate that they're fully engaged in life, even if it's exhausting.
The specific idiom may not exist, but similar phrases that caution against overwork exist in many languages.
Yes, it's often used in work settings as a cautionary phrase against unsustainable work habits.
Absolutely. The idiom can apply to physical as well as emotional or mental exhaustion.
Prioritize tasks, take breaks, and maintain a balanced lifestyle to avoid falling into this trap.
The idiom is mostly used in conversational or artistic settings, rather than academic writing.
In today's fast-paced society, where the grind never seems to stop, the warning not to burn the candle at both ends is more relevant than ever.
There are different ways to express the same concept, providing us with a rich tapestry of language to navigate the complexities of work-life balance.