To "hold a candle" for someone

Posted by Word Camel on May 12, 2003

In Reply to: To "hold a candle" for someone posted by tina callcut on May 12, 2003

: I have seen how "hold a candle to" someone (or for someone) can mean to assist, in the context of an apprentice holding a candle for a senior worker. My family has always used it to mean yearning for someone romantically, usually unrequitedly... Have we just got the wrong end of the stick (or possibly the candle?) or is there some basis for our use of this phrase???

It sounds like a mixture of "can't hold a candle" to and "to carry a torch for".

To hold a candle for - from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is:

He is not fit to hold the candle to him. He is very inferior. The allusion is to link-boys who held candles in theatres and other places of night amusement. 2
"Others say that Mr. Handel
To Bonocini can't hold a candle."

To carry a torch for may refer to the Greek and Roman custom of the wedding torch. In the wedding procession the bride carried a torch made of Hawthorne lit by the fire in her own house and to light the hearth of her new home.