Word Origin & History
O.E. candel "lamp, lantern, candle," an early ecclesiastical borrowing from L. candela "a light, torch, candle made of tallow or wax," from candere "to shine," from PIE base *kand- "to glow, to shine, to shoot out light" (cf. Skt. cand- "to give light, shine," candra- "shining, glowing, moon;" Gk. kandaros
"coal;" Welsh cann "white;" M.Ir. condud "fuel"). Candles were unknown in ancient Greece (where oil lamps sufficed), but common from early times among Romans and Etruscans. Candles on birthday cakes seems to have been originally a German custom. To hold a candle to originally meant "to help in a subordinate capacity." To burn the candle at both ends is recorded from 1730.