AskDefine | Define candle

Dictionary Definition



1 stick of wax with a wick in the middle [syn: taper, wax light]
2 the basic unit of luminous intensity adopted under the Systeme International d'Unites; equal to 1/60 of the luminous intensity per square centimeter of a black body radiating at the temperature of 2,046 degrees Kelvin [syn: candela, cd, standard candle] v : examine eggs for freshness by holding them against a light

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English candel.



  1. A light source consisting of a wick embedded in a solid, flammable substance such as wax, tallow, or paraffin.
  2. An old unit of luminous intensity, now replaced by the SI unit candela.
  3. In forestry, a fast growing, light colored, upward-growing shoot on a pine tree in the spring. As growth slows in summer, the shoot darkens and is no longer highlighted to one’s view.


a light source


  1. A method of observing the growth of an embryo inside an egg, using a bright light source.
  2. In pottery A method for drying greenware prior to beginning of the firing cycle, setting the kiln at 200° Celsius until all water is removed from the greenware.

Extensive Definition

A candle is a light source, and sometimes a heat source, consisting of a solid block of fuel and an embedded wick.
Prior to the mid-19th century, candles were made from tallow (a byproduct of beef-fat rendering). Nowadays, they are usually made from wax. Paraffin wax is the most common, but there are also candles made from gel, soy and beeswax.
A candle manufacturer is traditionally known as a chandler. Various devices have been invented to hold candles, from simple tabletop candle holders, to elaborate chandeliers.
The heat of the match used to light the candle melts and vaporizes a small amount of fuel. Once vaporized, the fuel combines with oxygen in the atmosphere to form a flame. This flame provides sufficient heat to keep the candle burning via a self-sustaining chain of events: the heat of the flame melts the top of the mass of solid fuel, the liquified fuel then moves upward through the wick via capillary action, and the liquified fuel is then vaporized to burn within the candle's flame.
The burning of the fuel takes place in several distinct regions (as evidenced by the various colors that can be seen within the candle's flame). Within the bluer regions, hydrogen is being separated from the fuel and burned to form water vapor. The brighter, hotter, yellower part of the flame is the remaining carbon being oxidized to form carbon dioxide.
As the mass of solid fuel is melted and consumed, the candle grows shorter. Portions of the wick that are not evaporating the liquid fuel are consumed in the flame, limiting the exposed length of the wick and keeping the temperature and rate of fuel consumption even. Some wicks require manual trimming with scissors or a wick trimmer for even burning.


In Rome, around the first century, candles were made out of tallow and the pith of rushes. The Egyptians and Cretans made the candle from beeswax, as early as 3000 BC. The early candle was made from various forms of natural fat, tallow, and wax. In the 18th century, spermaceti, oil produced by the sperm whale, was used to produce a superior candle. Late in the 18th century, colza oil and rapeseed oil came into use as much cheaper substitutes. Paraffin was first distilled in 1830, and revolutionized candle-making, as it was an inexpensive material which produced a high-quality, odorless candle that burned reasonably cleanly. The industry was devastated soon after, however, by the distillation of kerosene (confusingly also called paraffin oil or just paraffin). Recently resin based candles that are freestanding and transparent have been developed, with the claim that they burn longer than traditional paraffin candles.


Before the advent of electricity, candles and oil lamps were used for illumination. Until the 19th century, candles were more common in northern Europe. In southern Europe and the Mediterranean, oil lamps predominated. Today, candles are used mainly for their aesthetic value, particularly to set a soft, warm, or romantic ambiance, and for emergency lighting during electrical power failures. Scented candle are used in aromatherapy.


Candles are used in the religious ceremonies of many faiths.


The candle is used in Sikhism on Diwali, the festival of light.


Candles are a traditional part of Buddhist ritual observances. Along with incense and flowers, candles (or some other type of light source, such as butter lamps) are placed before Buddhist shrines or images of the Buddha as a show of respect. They may also be accompanied by offerings of food and drink. The light of the candles is described as representing the light of the Buddha's teachings, echoing the metaphor of light used in various Buddhist scriptures. See Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival for an example of a Buddhist festival that makes extensive use of candles.


In almost all Hindu homes, lamps are lit daily before the altar of the Lord. In some houses, the lamps, or candles, at dawn, and in some, twice a day - at dawn and dusk - and in a few, it is maintained continuously.
A diya, or clay lamp, is frequently used in Hindu celebrations and forms an integral part in many social rites. It is a strong symbol of enlightenment and prosperity.
In its traditional and simplest form, the diya is made from baked clay or terracotta and holds oil or ghee that is lit via a cotton wick.
Traditional diyas have now evolved into a form wherein waxes are being used as replacements for oils.


In Christianity the candle is commonly used in worship both for decoration and ambience, and as a symbol that represent the light of God or, specifically, the light of Christ. The altar candle is often placed on the altar, usually in pairs. Candles are also carried in processions, especially to either side of the processional cross. A Votive candle or taper may be lit as an accompaniment to prayer.
Candles are lit by worshippers in front of icons in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and other churches. This is referred to as "offering a candle", because the candle is a symbol of the worshipper offering himself or herself to God (and proceeds from the sale of the candle are offerings by the faithful which go to help the church). Among the Eastern Orthodox, there are times when the entire congregation stands holding lit tapers, such as during the reading of the Matins Gospels on Good Friday, the Lamentations on Holy Saturday, funerals, Memorial services, etc.
In the Roman Catholic Church a liturgical candle must be made of at least 51% beeswax, the remainder may be parafin or some other substance. In the Orthodox Church, the tapers offered should be 100% beeswax, unless poverty makes this impossible. For this reason, the stumps from burned candles are usually saved and melted down to make new candles.
In some Western churches, a special candle known as the Paschal candle, specifically represents the Resurrected Christ and is lit only at Easter, funerals, and baptisms. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, during Bright Week (Easter Week) the priest holds a special Paschal trikirion (tripple candlestick) and the deacon holds a large candle during all of the services at which they serve.
In Sweden (and other Scandinavian countries), St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13 with the crowning of a young girl with a wreath of candles.


In Judaism, a pair of candles are lit on Friday evening prior to the start of the weekly Sabbath celebration. On Saturday night, a special candle with several wicks is lit for the Havdalah ritual marking the end of the Sabbath and the beginning of the new week.
The eight-day holiday of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by lighting a special candelabrum or Hanukkiyah each night to commemorate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem.
A memorial candle is lit on the Yahrtzeit, or anniversary of the death of a loved one according to the Hebrew calendar. The candle burns for 24 hours. A memorial candle is also lit on Yom HaShoah, a day of remembrance for all those who perished in the Holocaust.
Candles are also lit prior to the onset of the Three Festivals (Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot) and the eve of Yom Kippur.
A candle is also used on the night before Passover in a symbolic search for chametz, or leavened bread, which is not eaten on Passover.


The Candle is also used in celebrations of Kwanzaa, which is an African American holiday which runs from December 26 to January 1. The kinara: has three red, one black, three green.


For some Humanists the candle is used as a symbol of the light of reason or rationality. The Humanist festival of HumanLight often features a candle-lighting ceremony.

Unitarian Universalism

A common element of worship in many Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships is the lighting of candles of joy and concern. Here members of the congregation may come up to the altar or chancel, light a votive or other candle, and share a personal concern or joy with the community. Unitarian Universalists also incorporate candle-lighting ceremonies from other spiritual traditions, from which they draw inspiration.


In Wicca and related forms of Neopaganism, the candle is frequently used on the altar to represent the presence of the God and Goddess, and in the four corners of a ritual circle to represent the presence of the four classical elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. When used in this manner, lighting and extinguishing the candle marks the opening and closing of the ritual. The candle is also frequently used by Wiccans and other Neopagans for magical and meditative purposes. Altar candles are traditionally thick tall candles which are available in many colours. Most popular though unless at certain sabbats, are the black and white altar candles.


With the fairly consistent and measurable burning of a candle, a common use was to tell the time. The candle designed for this purpose might have time measurements, usually in hours, marked along the wax. The Sung dynasty in China (960–1279) used candle-clocks. By the 18th century, candle-clocks were being made with weights set into the sides of the candle. As the candle melted, the weights fell off and made a noise as they fell into a bowl. A form of candle-clock was used in coal-mining until the 20th century.
In the days leading to Christmas some people burn a candle a set amount to represent each day, as marked on the candle. The type of candle used in this way is called the Advent candle, although this term is also used to refer to a candle that decorates an Advent wreath.

Raqs sharqi

In raqs sharqi, candles are used as a complementary element in some dance styles. The candles can be either be held on the dancer's hand or above her head, depending on what the choreography demands.

Fuel and candle holders

The candle can be made of paraffin (a byproduct of petroleum refining), stearin (now produced almost exclusively from palm waxes), beeswax (a byproduct of honey collection), gel (a mixture of resin and mineral oil), some plant waxes (generally palm, carnauba, bayberry, or soy), or tallow (rarely used since the introduction of affordable wax alternatives). The candle is produced in various colors, shapes, sizes and scents. The most basic production method generally entails the liquification of the solid fuel by the controlled application of heat. This liquid is then poured into a mold to produce a pillar type candle, a fireproof jar to produce a candle container, or a wick is repeatedly immersed in the liquid to create a dipped taper. Often, fragrance oils are added to the liquid wax prior to pouring. Natural scents, in the form of essential oils, can also be used. The candle may also be colored by the addition of some sort of coloring agent. This is almost always an aniline-based dye, although pigments can be used in some circumstances.
A candle typically produces about 13 lumens of visible light and 40 watts of heat, although this can vary depending primarily on the characteristics of the candle wick. For comparison, note that a 40 watt incandescent light bulb produces approximately 500 lumens for the same amount of power. The modern SI unit of luminous intensity, the candela, was based on an older unit called the candlepower, which represented the luminous intensity emitted by a candle made to particular specifications (a "standard candle"). The modern unit is defined in a more precise and repeatable way, but was chosen such that a candle's luminous intensity is still about one candela.
It is commonly believed that the candle made of beeswax burn more cleanly than petroleum based paraffin waxes. However highly-refined paraffin wax can burn as or more cleanly (with regards to particulates created during combustion) than natural waxes. The type of wick and inclusion of any scents and/or dyes have a much greater impact on the release of compounds, particulates, and smoke, regardless of the base material. The cleanest burning candle will therefore be unscented, undyed, and a well constructed candle burning in a draft free area. Furthermore, a candle will function well when formulated waxes are blended together (soy, paraffin and other waxes) and fragrance oils along with wick selections are balanced properly.

External links


candle in Arabic: شمعة
candle in Bulgarian: Свещ
candle in Catalan: Espelma
candle in Czech: Svíčka
candle in German: Kerze
candle in Spanish: Vela (iluminación)
candle in Esperanto: Kandelo
candle in French: Bougie
candle in Galician: Candea
candle in Croatian: Svijeća
candle in Indonesian: Lilin
candle in Italian: Candela (illuminazione)
candle in Hebrew: נר
candle in Latin: Cereus
candle in Latvian: Svece
candle in Lithuanian: Žvakė
candle in Malay (macrolanguage): Lilin
candle in Dutch: Kaars
candle in Dutch Low Saxon: Keerse
candle in Japanese: ろうそく
candle in Norwegian: Levende lys
candle in Norwegian Nynorsk: Levande lys
candle in Polish: Świeca
candle in Portuguese: Vela (iluminação)
candle in Romanian: Lumânare
candle in Russian: Свеча
candle in Sicilian: Cannila
candle in Simple English: Candle
candle in Slovak: Sviečka
candle in Slovenian: Sveča
candle in Serbian: Свећа
candle in Finnish: Kynttilä
candle in Swedish: Levande ljus
candle in Turkish: Mum
candle in Ukrainian: Свічка
candle in Chinese: 蜡烛

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ASA scale, Agnus Dei, British candle, Hefner candle, Holy Grail, Host, Pieta, Sanctus bell, Sangraal, Scheiner scale, ark, asperger, asperges, aspergillum, bambino, bayberry candle, beadroll, beads, bougie, bougie decimale, candle lumen, candle power, candle-foot, candle-hour, candle-meter, censer, chaplet, ciborium, corpse candle, cross, crucifix, cruet, decimal candle, dip, electric light bulb, eucharistial, exposure meter, farthing dip, fire, flame, flux, holy cross, holy water, holy-water sprinkler, icon, illuminant, illuminator, incandescent body, incensory, intensity, international candle, lamp, lamp-hour, lantern, light, light bulb, light meter, light quantum, light source, lumen, lumen meter, lumen-hour, lumeter, luminant, luminary, luminous flux, luminous intensity, luminous power, lux, match, matzo, menorah, mezuzah, mikvah, monstrance, moon, osculatory, ostensorium, paschal candle, pax, photon, phylacteries, prayer shawl, prayer wheel, pyx, quantum, relics, rood, rosary, rush candle, rushlight, sacramental, sacred relics, sacring bell, shofar, source of light, stars, sukkah, sun, tabernacle, tallith, tallow candle, tallow dip, taper, thurible, torch, unit of flux, unit of light, urceole, veronica, vigil light, votary candle, votive candle, wax candle
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1