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late 13c., from Old French torche, originally "twisted thing," hence "torch formed of twisted tow dipped in wax," probably from Vulgar Latin *torca, alteration of Late Latin torqua, variant of classical Latin torques "collar of twisted metal," from torquere "to twist" (see thwart). In Britain, also applied to the battery-driven version (in U.S., flashlight). Torch song is 1927 ("My Melancholy Baby," performed by Tommy Lyman, is said to have been the first so called), from carry a torch "suffer an unrequited love" (also 1927), an obscure notion from Broadway slang.
"set fire to," 1931, from torch (n.). Related: Torched; torching.
On the night of his betrayal, when our Lord was in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas, "having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons" (John 18:1-3). Although it was the time of full moon, yet in the valley of the Kidron "there fell great, deep shadows from the declivity of the mountain and projecting rocks; there were there caverns and grottos, into which a fugitive might retreat; finally, there were probably a garden-house and tower, into whose gloom it might be necessary for a searcher to throw light around." Lange's Commentary. (Nahum 2:3, "torches," Revised Version, "steel," probably should be "scythes" for war-chariots.)