I came across this while reading "Along came a spider" by James Patterson. Chapter 48 begins with the sentence:

The rest of that day, I burned the candle at the other end.

Followed by:

It felt a little irresponsible, but that was good for me. It's all right to put the weight of the world on your shoulders sometimes, if you know how to take it off.

I am familiar with the meaning of the idiom "burning the candle at both ends". The context in question, however, suggests the exact opposite.

Search results have provided me with precious little on "burning the candle at the other end". I've looked into a translation of the novel in Bulgarian, where the phrase is translated into something along the lines of:

I spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying myself.

I understand how burning a candle at both ends is related to that particular idiom's meaning, but I'm having trouble grasping the analogy between burning one at the other end and the interpretation of taking it easy (presuming the interpretation is correct). If the rate of energy expenditure is the key factor here, why not just burn the candle the regular way?

Could someone please suggest the origin and exact meaning of "burning a candle at the other end?

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    @Minty "To burn the candle at both ends" surely originates with the notion of "going to bed late and getting up early", doesn't it? – WS2 Apr 9 '19 at 11:50
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    In this context, ...at the other end isn't an "established" variant, so it doesn't have an agreed meaning. The original (at both ends) was based on profligately burning both ends of the candle at once (to get more light), but some people (mistakenly or whimsically) might choose to see it as a reference to the two "ends" of the day (late night and early morning). It's all a matter of opinion, but my guess is OP's cited context is a whimsical allusion to expending energy "relaxing and having fun" the next day, after working late the night before. – FumbleFingers Apr 9 '19 at 11:53
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    Related (duplicate?) What does “burning the candle at both ends” mean? – FumbleFingers Apr 9 '19 at 11:55
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    Sort of, Yavor. If I am burning the candle at both ends then I am putting a lot of energy into work and then going out and putting a lot into playtime too. In a context where I have just put in a hard day's work, going out and having it large can be described as burning the candle at the other end. If I have been out all night and still manage to put in a full day's work, then the full day's work is burning it at the other end. For me the two ends are very clearly established as work/study time and play time. We just need the context to tell us which is the other end. – user339660 Apr 9 '19 at 12:10
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    NB there's an idea of overdoing it which comes from the idea that a candle is only really supposed to be lit at one end. – user339660 Apr 9 '19 at 12:11

Well, it seems possible that context may gild the flavor, but taking in these quotes I get a fairly distinct whiff.

Let's see, there is someone

  • burning the candle at the other end, who further
  • feels good after, irresponsibly, taking off some pressure, and who
  • spends quite some time relaxing and enjoying himself

Could the great art of self-gratification help us see clearer here?

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  • +1 For explaining the seeming non-sequitur of OP's second quote. :) – tblue May 3 at 17:18


As a figure of speech, “burn the candle at both ends” means “to work very hard and stay up very late at night,” as defined by McGraw-Hill’s “American Idioms Dictionary.” By way of further explanation, it says the phrase implies that “one end of the candle is work done in the daylight, and the other end is work done at night.”

THAILAND Aspects of Landscape and Life by Robert L. Pendleton - 1962

Pendleton’s life was characterized by an outpouring of energy. His many publications have already been mentioned. One item in his bibliography is headed: “Reviews of thirteen books.” He was a voluminous letter writer. Ten or twenty letters a day to all parts of the world were not unusual. An early riser, he was often at work before some of the graduate students who burned the candle at the other end had gone to bed.


OP's quote comes from the beginning of Chapter 48. At the end of Chap. 47, the man spent an unexpected loving night in the arms of Jezzie. "Early the next morning" she dropped him off at his place.

OP quote: "The rest of that day, I burned the candle at the other end," refers to having spent the 'first half of the candle' (the night hours) awake with Jezzie; now, he's going straight into the affairs of the day, burning the candle of the daylight hours.

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  • This is a good explanation of the common phrase 'burn at both ends' but doesn't really address the wording 'burn at the other end'. Can you find any discussion for that particular phrase? – Mitch Jun 2 at 20:06
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    The OP specifically says "I am familiar with the meaning of the idiom "burning the candle at both ends"." – Greybeard Jun 3 at 10:49
  • I removed some extraneous stuff so that perhaps the answer will be clearer? – tblue Jun 3 at 12:42

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